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CONDOMINUMS - Zero Lot Lines
    Waterloo has some old townhouses.  You can call them row houses, too.  They sit on forty foot lots and there is no distance between the walls between units.  The walls are sitting on the lot lines.  Old storefronts downtown were also this way.  The wall between the two lots is called a “party wall.”  There are cases about party walls. 

    If the side-yard setback that you find in most zoning ordinances is eliminated, there is no obstacle to building right out to your lot line.  It’s your property.

    So one form of building is to have “Zero” set back from the side lot line.  I call this form “Zero Lot Line” and use it here to illustrate that you can have a zero lot line building when no one is going to be owning a unit that is above or under any other unit.  In other words, if there is no requirement for a horizontal boundary line, then there is really no requirement for having to carve everything up with cubes of air space and common elements.  And when there is no requirement for common elements, then you have eliminated the problem of the concurrent ownership of the common elements.

    In the Samples & Examples section I have included a document that I did in 1979 to create a zero lot line form of ownership on a project in Waterloo.  It is the owners’ deed of dedication for National Plaza.  Because you are sub-dividing a larger parcel of real property into more than two parcels, you have to comply with the platting requirements.  So you create a Zero Lot Line (ZLL) approach by recording a subdivision plat instead of recording a condominium Declaration.

    To some developers it is considered a negative to have to file a subdivision plat because that has to go through the process of subdivision approval at Planning and Zoning whereas recording a condominium Declaration does not.

     To some developers it is also thought to be easier to sell units that are “Condos” instead of telling people that what we have is “not really a condo,” but is a “zero lot line” instead. But I value simplicity.  And a ZLL is so much cleaner in practice: There are no “common elements;” no ownership in common among all the unit owners; no council of co-owners; no HOA; no requirement for an assessment for maintenance; no lien for unpaid assessments; no record book; and no requirement to keep “resolutions.”  Using a ZLL cuts down on the red tape.

This page was written on 04190.

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