Monday, June 24, 2013

Is Your Home Your Castle? Your Condominium Questions Answered

 Q:      My condominium is new right now, but what happens when the roof needs repairs, the driveways need resurfacing, and the siding is fading? Is the condo association responsible for the expense, and if so, where does the association get the money to make the repairs?
A:        Ohio law requires the unit owners’ association to adopt and amend budgets and to collect assessments for common expenses from unit owners. Unless the condominium organizational documents say otherwise, the code also requires the association to set aside no less than 10 percent of its annual budget to repair and replace major capital items. The owners may decide to waive the 10 percent set-aside each year with the approval of a majority of the unit owners. Typically, money put into reserves is used to fund the long-term maintenance of the condominium, including the roofs and roads. 
            If, however, the association does not have the necessary reserves for a major repair, it can pass a special assessment to fund the repairs. Ultimately, the owners must bear the financial costs for major repairs, either through the board’s planning for adequate reserves or by special assessments as the need arises. In recent years, reserve studies have been used to more rationally determine the amount of reserves necessary for future maintenance projects.

Q:       I am going to be a first-time condominium owner. What should I know about the closing process?
A:        First, consult with your attorney, who will help you draft your purchase contract. Your closing really starts with the contract. If the contract is not right, the entire transaction will be difficult. Buying a condo is different from buying a single family house, and the closing agent is not always looking out for your best interest. Having a knowledgeable attorney assist you should be a priority. Before closing, your attorney will review with you all of the crucial documents that govern your condominium, including the declaration, bylaws and rules of the association. He or she will review the closing statement and inspection reports for the property, and make sure you are getting what you bargained for. Your purchase contract should be contingent on your satisfactory review of these documents, including financial statements and the balance sheet for the association. Your attorney will review the title work with you and advise you about the proper insurance you should have for your unit. Once you are at the closing table, the title company will explain the closing statement, and you will be asked to sign multiple documents including the lender’s note and mortgage, which your attorney should review with you. At closing, you will receive the keys to the unit and be asked to put the utilities in your name. You should be able to close your purchase in about an hour if all of the reviews of the closing documents have been done in advance. 

Q:       We have an unruly tenant in our condominium community who is renting the condominium.  Is there any way to remove that tenant without involving the owner of the rental unit?
As an owner of a condo unit, you own real estate, and you may be able to rent the unit instead of living in it, just like any other piece of residential real estate.  However, with tenants sometimes come problems.  Since 2004, Ohio law has allowed the association to evict unruly tenants without permission from the unit owner.  There is only one step that must be taken in addition to the normal eviction process, and it involves notifying the owner before the eviction is filed. The process is quick, but it can be expensive if the tenant puts up a fight. The most common reasons for eviction of a tenant are the tenant’s violation of the association rules, such as maintaining too many pets, or harboring a vicious dog, parking in restricted areas and creating noise violations associated with loud parties. If the condominium association prohibits leasing, the tenant also may be evicted because the owner has rented the property in violation of the rules. 

This “Law You Can Use” legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Charles T. Williams, Esq of Williams & Strohm, LLC, located in Columbus. For more information on a variety of legal topics, visit the OSBA’s website at Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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