Foundational Documents for Co-ops & Condos The Words That Get it Started

From the Magna Carta to the U.S. Constitution, written documents have helped shape the way people live and interact with one another for centuries. The fundamental documents that establish co-ops and condos have that same importance in building a well-oiled, well-functioning community albeit on a smaller scale, of course. That is why it is so important to ensure that these materials are up-to-date, accurate and fully reflect the co-op, condo and people who live within it.

The Words

Before the first beams are raised or the first unit converted, co-ops and condos need some basic documents drawn up and in place for the community to become a reality. For condominiums, that document is the condominium declaration. “The condominium declaration is the master deed and along with the bylaws, it is recorded in the county in which the condominium property is located,” says Dennis H. Greenstein, a real estate partner at the Manhattan-based law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP. In addition, the individual condominium unit owners are given deeds to their units, as well as a percentage of the common elements of the community. These include pools, driveways, lawns and other recreational interests.

“The condominium declaration states the percentage of common interests allocated to each of the units,” Greenstein says.

Attorney Steve Troup, a partner at the law firm of Tarter Krinsky & Drogin LLP in Manhattan, adds that the declaration “must be recorded by the sponsor, and is frequently amended one or more times. The bylaws must be attached as an exhibit to the declaration. In order to amend the by-laws, the revised by-laws must be recorded to be effective. The (declaration), bylaws…and offering plan constitute the governing documents of a condominium.”

For homeowners’ associations, the declaration “is essentially a declaration of easements, covenants, restrictions and conditions and generally covers the common areas and not the house/unit,” says Greenstein.

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