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    Condominiums have been popular for about the past twenty-five years.  They exist at all because of state statutes which permit the draftsman to do one thing that was never possible before: draw a horizontal boundary line.  In Iowa that chapter is 499B.

    Iowa is dotted with farms.  The boundary between farms is a line but it is also a vertical plane to the heavens.

    When the Iowa legislature adopted the Horizontal Property Act in 1966 they made a law in Iowa that permits the lawyer who draws the legal papers with the means to divide ownership of real property by horizontal lines as well as traditional vertical lines.

    The legal paper that does this is called the Declaration and the owner signs it and it is recorded in the Recorder’s office like other instruments that affect title to land.  Recording the Declaration, by operation of law, “submits” the land included in the Declaration to a “horizontal property regime” established by Chapter 499B.  That this happens at all is because of the words used in Section 499B.3.  The legal effect of recording a properly drawn Declaration is to create “cubes of air space” defined by the interior unfinished surfaces of the perimeter walls, ceiling and floors.  Those cubes are called units or apartments and numbered.  Thus a deed can be prepared to convey legal title to the cube of space.

     Within the perimeter boundary of the lot or parcel which was made subject to the horizontal property regime, everything except the cubes of air space are called “common elements.”  An example is the roof.  Another example is the lawn or yard.

    The property called common elements is owned in common.  The percentage of the common elements that pertains to any unit is spelled out in the Declaration.  A deed conveying a unit automatically includes a conveyance of an undivided fractional interest in the common elements in the percentage spelled out in the Declaration.

    There can be limited common elements whose use is reserved to less than all of the unit owners in the regime.  All common elements are either limited common elements or general common elements.  If the regime included more than one building and there was a clubhouse, for example, the clubhouse could easily be designated as a general common element.

    All of the unit owners acting together have to be the owners’ association.  Whether or not that association is incorporated depends on the draftsman for the Declarant.  The topic of the Bylaws and the subject of the incorporation of the homeowners association are taken up on another page.

    When a developer is building more than one building near other buildings that are submitted to a horizontal property regime, the question will come up whether to make each building a separate regime or keep them part of one big regime.  I discuss that problem under the heading of a Phased condominium.

This page was written on 04190.

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