Boston Homes
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Determining condo fees is not always easy



Q: Our condo building has six units, all the same size and with the exact same layout. The top unit has exclusive rights to the roof deck, but pays the same condo fee as the rest of us. This does not seem fair.


A: When a developer builds the condo building, the developer also must create legal documents that govern the condo association as a whole and for each unit. As part of these documents, the developer must determine how to divide the expenses incurred by unit owners. Many developers simply use the size of each unit as the deciding factor. So, for example, 10 identically sized units would each own 10 percent of the association, and each unit owner would pay 10 percent of expenses.


Sometimes, however, things are not that simple. If a building has 10 identically sized units, but the units have different values because owners have different views or rights to common elements, simple math can go out the window.


To remedy this, some developers use the initial value they set for each unit to determine percentage ownership.


Back to our 10 identically sized units: If each unit is valued at $100,000, except for the top unit which is valued at $200,000, and the basement unit, which is valued at $50,000, the top unit would have a 20 percent ownership interest in the association and the basement unit 5 percent interest ownership, and the other eight units slightly less than 10 percent each.


There could be other factors at work as well. For example, the developer could have given preferential treatment to the penthouse in order to facilitate its sale.


Once the percentage ownerships are assigned in the condo documents, the only way to change them is to have every unit owner agree to pass an amendment to the condo docs to change the percentage ownerships. Such a unanimous vote is all but impossible since one or more owners are going to have to end up paying more, and are unlikely to vote for the amendment.


Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: