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Purchase of a Condominium Unit

This is Dial-Law with information on the purchase of a condominium unit only in Illinois. If the property is not in Illinois, we suggest you contact the local county bar association where the property is located.

Purchasing and owning a condominium unit is somewhat similar to buying and owning a house.

Condominium refers to a method of ownership and not a physical style or type of building. New and existing high-rise buildings, townhouses, duplexes and three-flats can all be condominiums.

When you purchase a unit in a condominium, you become the absolute owner of your unit. You also become a joint-co-owner, with the owners of all the other units in the condominium development, of a share of the land on which the building is located and all areas of the building outside the individual units. All of these areas, which are defined in the Condominium Declaration and are identified on a survey attached to the Declaration, are known as "common elements."

You and all other unit owners share the right to use the common elements subject to reasonable regulations as well as responsibility for their maintenance. As a condominium owner, you are a member of a condominium association comprised of all unit owners. The association has jurisdiction over all the common elements. Your rights, obligations and responsibilities are defined in the Condominium Declaration and in by-laws for your condominium development. Sometimes the Condominium Association hires a professional management company or manager to take care of the day-to-day operations of the condominium, while other condominiums are self-managed.

As the purchaser of a condominium unit, you will be responsible for obtaining and making payments on a mortgage loan for your unit. You will also be responsible for your own utility bills, real estate taxes on your unit and a monthly maintenance assessment to the condominium association. The Condominium Association will probably obtain fire insurance on the building but you should purchase insurance for the contents of your unit. You are also responsible for the maintenance, cleaning, decorating, repair and remodeling of the inside of your unit. The cost of maintenance, repair and replacement of the common elements, which are owned by you in common with your fellow condominium owners, are the responsibility of the condominium association and paid for from your monthly maintenance assessments.

When you decide to purchase a condominium unit, you and your attorney, if you authorize him or her, should carefully review the Condominium Declaration, by-laws and the rules and regulations adopted by the board of managers, since these documents govern what you can and cannot do with the unit. The rights, obligations and restrictions contained in the Condominium Declaration, by-laws, and rules and regulations should be carefully considered before you decide whether to purchase a condominium unit.

Before purchasing a condominium unit, you should also inquire as to the amount of the monthly maintenance assessment on your unit. You should find out whether the board of directors of the association plans major repairs to the common elements, which might cost you a substantial sum or might cause an increase in your monthly assessments or the imposition of a special assessment. You should review the condominium association budget and the previous year's financial statements and check whether provision has been made for adequate reserves for the repair or replacement of roofs, boiler, exterior renovations (i.e. tuck-pointing, window repairs) and so forth. Remember that you will be responsible for your share of any cost or expenses arising from the operation of the property. For these reasons, it is very important that you consult with your attorney and other advisors before you sign a contract to buy a condominium unit. Your attorney should explain your rights and responsibilities as a member of the condominium association, and he or she should make sure that your purchase contract gives you adequate legal protection, including your rights to certain information as provided under the Illinois Condominium Property Act.

Your lawyer most likely will insist that the purchase contract include a provision that you be furnished with a title insurance policy, insuring that you receive good title to your unit. The services of your attorney and financial advisor, and the receipt of a policy of title insurance, are important elements in protecting you against future problems with your condominium unit. Further information concerning the purchase of real estate is available from Dial-Law #22 Real Estate Buyer's Rights.