Common areas

What are common areas?

Common areas are elements of a property available for use for all tenants or owners.

Deeper definition

Common areas can include hallways, sidewalks, parking lots, community swimming pools, and laundry facilities, though the list doesn’t end there. If people in a residential building or development are free to use a space, it is likely a common area.

A significant amount of case law is dedicated to the valuation of common areas for property tax values. While well-maintained common areas can support high property values, and amenities such as pools may factor into the decisions of whether to buy into a community, most courts have held that common areas have only nominal value.

Common area example

For real estate purposes, the phrase “common area” has different importance if it is used in reference to a commercial lease, apartment building or condo associations and planned communities.

In a commercial lease, the common area maintenance fee is assessed on store owners to pay for snow plowing of parking lots and other maintenance. In an apartment building, the common areas might refer to hallways, doors, elevators and parking lots. Use of the common areas is governed by the lease. In condo associations and homeowners associations the common areas are jointly owned by the homeowners, who must pay a common area assessment for its maintenance and upkeep.

In some condominiums, spaces like balconies, used by a single tenant, are considered common areas. This allows the condominium association to dictate the use of a balcony. It could, for example, forbid using barbecue grills and painting the railings. If the balcony needs repair, however, ownership makes that repair the duty of the condo association. These are called “exclusive use common areas.”

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