We've received a number of phone calls at the registry of deeds from individuals who own condominiums that have been damaged by water infiltrating their units from melting snow. While this unfortunate condition affects homeowners of all types, condominium units have an added complication from the nature of a condominium.
When a condominium is established, each unit within the building is owned outright by an individual. Common areas such as the roof, the entryway and the parking area are owned in common by all of the unit owners. The association of condominium owners is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of these common areas. Insurance coverage is similarly split. The association obtains insurance for common areas and individuals obtain insurance for their units.
The people calling us have made claims for property damage to their units against their own insurers. Those insurers have pushed back, asking for some documentation that establishes where the common areas end and the individual units begin. So called condo docs are most likely to do delineate this boundary (although as is often the case with legal matters, something that seems clear might be anything but).
So what are "condo docs"? Massachusetts General Laws chapter 183A governs condominiums. It says that the owner may designate a building to be a condominium by recording a document called a Master Deed. That's probably an unfortunate term because unlike most other deeds, a Master Deed does not convey an interest in the property from one person to another. Instead, it deals with the usage of the property. The Master Deed identifies and delineates - usually with a floor plan - the dimensions and location of each individual condominium unit. The Master Deed also designates what percentage of the common areas attributable to each unit. for example, if a condominium consists of four equally sized units, each unit would own 25% of the common areas.
The second "condo docs" is usually the Declaration of Trust that creates the condo association. This document also sets out all the procedural rules to be followed by the condo association such as electing trustees and other administrative functions. Sometimes the Declaration of Trust is embedded within the Master Deed so there's only a single document.
Unfortunately, both the Master Deed and Declaration of Trust are lengthy documents. This is unfortunate because if you come to the registry of deeds to obtain a copy, we're obligated by statute to charge you $1 per page. However, if you download and print the documents from our website, you can do it for free.
To find condo docs on our website, go to www.lowelldeeds.com and select "search land records" in the yellow box in the middle of the page. When the search window appears, type the name of the condominium in the "last name" field. For example, if you live in the Sunny Acres Condominium, just type SUNNY ACRES and click "search." From the results retrieved, scroll down the "document type" column looking for Master Deed and Declaration of Trust. Once you've found them, follow the on-screen instructions to display the image. Rather than print the image directly from the site, we recommend using the "basket" function to download the entire document in a PDF format which is easier to store, email or print.
If you have any questions about locating condominium documents, send us an email at email@example.com.