Included within the various forms of common interest developments (“CIDS”) are condominium projects. (Civ. Code § 4100.) The portion of real property within a condominium project that is owned individually by a property owner is the owner’s “separate interest” (or unit). (Civ. Code §§ 4185(a)(2), 4125(b).) The majority of condominium units within California condominium projects are structured as “airspace” condominium units.
The boundaries of an airspace condominium unit typically include the interior, unfinished surfaces of the unit’s perimeter walls, floors, ceilings, windows and doors. These boundaries are often identified within the provisions of the CID’s condominium plan and may also be stated in the association’s CC&Rs. Where such provisions are absent or ambiguous, Civil Code Section 4185(b) establishes this default boundary structure:
“Unless the declaration or condominium plan, if any exists, otherwise provides, if walls, floors, or ceilings are designated as boundaries of a separate interest, the interior surfaces of the perimeter walls, floors, ceilings, windows, doors and outlets located within the separate interest are part of the separate interest…” (Civ. Code § 4185(b).)
The property owned by an owner (the owner’s separate interest) consists of the block of airspace created by the interior, unfinished surfaces of the unit’s perimeter walls, floors and ceilings. Using this structure, the owner would own the paint on the walls and ceilings, and any finishes placed on the floor (i.e., tile, hardwood, carpet, etc.), as well as the block or “cube” of airspace located within those boundaries and any improvements located within that airspace (i.e., cabinetry, appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc.). However, everything existing beyond those boundaries (i.e., the physical drywall, subfloor, unit foundation, roof, etc.) would generally constitute common area. The boundaries of an airspace condominium unit are significant in determining the scope of an owner’s maintenance and repair responsibilities versus those of the association. (See “Common Area Maintenance.”)
Exclusive Use Common Areas
The owner of an airspace condominium unit often also has certain portions of association common area designated for the owner’s exclusive use (i.e., patios, balconies, decks, etc.). These “exclusive use common areas” are not owned by the owner in his/her individual capacity; they are a portion of common area reserved for the owner’s exclusive use via the provisions of the association’s CC&Rs. This distinction is significant because it impacts the scope of the owner’s maintenance and repair responsibilities versus those of the association. (See “Exclusive Use Common Area Maintenance.”)
- Civil Code Section 4775. Association and Owner Maintenance Responsibilities.
- Civil Code Section 4185. “Separate Interest” Defined.
- Civil Code Section 4145. “Exclusive Use Common Area” Defined.
- Civil Code Section 4125. “Condominium Project” Defined.
- Civil Code Section 4100. “Common Interest Development” Defined.
Related Case Law
- Dover Village Association v. Jennison
(2010) 191 Cal.App.4th 123
[Maintenance; Board Deference] The deference afforded to HOA Boards for maintenance decisions does not extend to the Board’s interpretation as to the scope of the HOA’s maintenance responsibilities under its CC&Rs.