Condominiums are creatures of statute and did not exist at common law, although they have an ancient history. They are common-property arrangements. Each owner within a condominium association owns an individual unit but also possesses shared ownership of common areas with every other owner of a unit within the community.
Community associations regulated by restrictive covenants are widespread in every state in the United States. These associations typically reserve certain spaces within the community for common areas such as swimming pools, tennis courts, gardens, playgrounds, or other recreational facilities or uses that each member of the association subsidizes with his or her respective homeowner-association dues.
The law has for centuries treated such covenants as contracts. Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, surmised that a “covenant also, contained in a deed, to do a direct act or to omit one, is another species of express contracts, the violation or breach of which is a civil injury.” On this view, covenants may regulate the actions and behaviors of those who submit to them even if those actions and behaviors are only indirectly related to the physical property contemplated by the covenants.
Today’s covenants for condominiums may include restrictions on renting or other uses (e.g., they may prohibit the keeping of pets or require that a unit not be used for business purposes), impose obligations (such as proper maintenance of the unit and payment of assessments or dues), and institute sanctions such as fines or penalties for the violations of any terms of the covenant.
The association takes the form of a nonprofit corporation or other corporate entity, and membership in the association is accomplished by holding a deed to a lot within the community. All fifty states in the United States have statutory laws dealing with the creation and regulation of condominiums.