And when do you need permission from the Board of Directors to modify your home?
Maybe you’re a new condo owner or maybe you’ve called a condo home for a long time. Either way, the distinction between limited common and common elements are important for you. Whether you are renovating to create your dream space, tending to a crucial repair, or just want to know the ins and outs of condo living, you need to know the difference between these two key terms and how they apply to you.
Common elements are at the base of every association. From the land to the buildings on the land, a common element is something that everyone shares to some extent. Maintaining the common elements of the association is a big job, since it encompasses the land, residential buildings, garages, parking lots, utility main lines, and more. That’s why everyone has to pitch in. This is what your association dues are for—caring for the community that you all share. If there is a problem with any of the common elements, it is the responsibility of the association as a whole to repair and maintain them.
Common elements include (but aren’t limited to):
- Utility main lines
- Storm water drains
- Existing landscaping
Limited Common Elements
Limited common elements are parts of the common elements that are specifically designated to the homeowner (you!). Anything that is defined as a limited common element by the governing documents of your association is your responsibility as a homeowner. This includes the coordination of and payment for maintenance. Limited common elements are usually anything inside your unit. Your unit is defined by its limited common elements, otherwise known as the unit boundaries. You can locate your unit boundaries in your association’s declaration.
Limited common elements include (but aren’t limited to):
- Windows and doors
- Garage doors and locks
- Interior walls and floors
- Decks, balconies, porches, and patios
- Utilities like plumbing, wiring, and ventilation
- Personal appliances like hot water heaters, washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, satellite dishes, and renewable energy devices
Board Approval Requests
Looking to make a modification to your home? You may need to fill out a Board Approval Request Form first. This form will ensure that your project will be in compliance with local requirements and you can move forward with the full approval of your association. If your project is on the boundary between common or limited common, requires modification of a common element, or may change the exterior appearance of your home, you must submit a Board Approval Request Form prior to starting work. If you aren’t sure whether you need approval or not, reach out to your property manager.
Projects you need approval for include (but aren’t limited to):
- Replacement of windows or doors
- Installation of fencing
- Modifying outdoor spaces, such as gardens or patios
- Installation of heat pumps
- Structural modifications of the inside of your home, such as moving walls, replacing subflooring, etc.
Projects you do not typically need approval for:
- Repainting or retiling inside your home
- Replacing flooring or carpets inside your home
- Updating appliances or fixtures
- Changing your interior décor
How Does This All Apply?
Limited common vs. common elements can be tricky to understand. Here are some examples:
I have a leak in my ceiling but I don’t know if it’s coming from the roof (a common element) or my plumbing (a limited common element). What should I do?
Put in a maintenance request. We’ll send someone out to investigate. If the leak is coming from the roof, the association will pay for the investigation and the repair. If the leak is coming from your plumbing, you’ll be responsible for the payment of the investigation and any repairs.
The roof (a common element) leaked and caused damage to my drywall (a limited common element). Am I stuck paying for the damage to be repaired?
No. If a common element causes damage to a limited common element, the repair will be taken care of by the association. However, this isn’t a replacement for homeowners insurance. You still need insurance coverage to replace damaged personal items or any limited common elements in the event that the damage does stem from something that is your responsibility.
I have a problem with my plumbing. Maintenance found a cracked pipe underground and/or outside of my unit.
Is the cracked section part of a pipe that only goes into your unit? This would likely be your responsibility.
Is the cracked section part of the main water or sewer line for the building? This would be the association’s responsibility.
I’m starting a project and am planning to complete the Board Approval Request Form, but I need a contractor. Can Full Circle recommend someone?
We can’t formally recommend contractors or other service technicians to you for your personal project. You can check with your neighbors to find out who they have used in the past. No matter which vendor you use for your project, they must be insured. You will be asked to provide your contractor’s proof of insurance when completing your Board Approval Request Form.
We’re Here to Help
If a concern around common vs. limited common arises and you still aren’t sure how to proceed, let us know! Send us an email to email@example.com with details about your concern and we’ll do our best to help you find the answer.