A condominium is a single real-estate unit in a multi-unit complex individually owned while common parts of the property, such as the grounds, hallways, heating system, elevators, exterior areas and building structure, are owned jointly by the unit owners. In a condominium individual units of a larger complex are sold and not rented. Those who purchase units in a condominium technically own everything from their walls inward. Each jurisdiction may have its own definition of a condominium but these definitions are generally very similar. For example, Washington State law in Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 64.34.020 defines condominium as “real property, portions of which are designated for separate ownership and the remainder of which is designated for common ownership solely by the owners of those portions. Real property is not a condominium unless the undivided interests in the common elements are vested in the unit owners, and unless a declaration and a survey map and plans have been recorded pursuant to this chapter.”
All of the individual homeowners have shared rights to most common areas, such as the elevators, hallways, pools and club houses. The condominium owners are entitled to both exclusive ownership and possession of a unit and an undivided interest as a tenant in common with other unit owners in the common areas. For example, in Aspen Grove Owners Ass’n v. Park Promenade Apts., LLC, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11005 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 1, 2010), it was stated that the Washington Condominium Act (WCA) defines the term “unit” as “a physical portion of the condominium designated for separate ownership,” while “common elements are all portions of a condominium other than the units.” Condo owners only own their units, not the ground beneath them, despite the fact that they may be required to contribute to the general upkeep of the common areas.
Condominiums should be distinguished from co-tenancy and townhouse developments. Co-tenancy is a tenancy with two or more co-owners who have unity of possession, while townhouse is a home attached to adjacent houses and typically, ownership of the townhouse comes with ownership of the land that the townhouse is on.