Goodspeed: What is a limited common element?

You will find these designations for your condo building in the condo association’s declaration or master deed.

QUESTION: I recently bought a condo and was told the purchase price included a parking space. Now I’m told the parking space I thought I owned is a limited common element. What does this mean?

ANSWER: In a condo association, there are three distinct elements of ownership: Common elements such as the building elevator and lobby that are used by all owners; unit specific elements that are the specific spot in which you live and is available only to you. This may include such things as exclusive roof rights available only to your unit or an assigned parking spot available only to your unit. The third element of ownership in a condo association includes the limited common elements available to all unit owners marks. This may include a parking lot available to all unit owners, but not with pre-assigned spaces.

You will find these designations for your condo building in the condo association’s declaration or master deed. Always read these documents carefully before purchasing a condo to make sure you understand what belongs to you and what belongs to the association. If a parking space is pre-assigned to your unit, it will be in these documents. If parking is a limited common element belonging to all unit owners, it will also be in these docs.

QUESTION: I just bought a condo. Since the association has a master insurance policy for the building, do I need to have another policy?

ANSWER: Yes, this is a mistake many condo owners make. The association’s master insurance policy protects owners from damage to the common elements, such as shingles blowing off the roof during a windstorm, liability from people falling on icy building entrances or parking areas.

The master policy does not protect individual owners from damage to the interiors of their units or belongings – water damage to your ceiling from a leaky faucet in the unit above you, fire or smoke damage to your belongings, the theft of personal items, etc.

Condo owners should purchase an individual owner’s policy. Be sure to read the entire policy and understand your coverage. You want to make sure you have full replacement coverage. Typical deductions range from about $500 to $1,000. Also, the association’s policy will not provide coverage for personal liability or alternative living expenses should your unit become uninhabitable. Make sure you have this coverage in your individual policy.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and Out of Darkness.”