Traditionally, people own houses with adjoining yards, driveway, garages and other outbuildings. The person owns that property without neighbors or anyone else dictating the use, look and layout of the property, except for local governments who enforce zoning and public safety laws.
However, some people feel that the value of everyone’s homes can be increased and maintained at higher levels if an entire neighborhood adopted certain rules to which everyone would agree. Examples of items of agreement include setback distances from streets, architectural designs, home colors and the locations of trees and landscaping.
Usually, such an agreement among owners of houses in a subdivision or neighborhood is set up by the neighborhood’s homebuilder/developer before the homes are built. Thus, each homeowner owns his or her own property and works together through a group (the homeowner association) to enforce the rules that are intended to be mutually beneficial to all homeowners. Thus, often, homeowner associations do not own any property themselves.
Sometimes, though, the goals of quality and consistency might be even easier to accomplish if some of each homeowner’s property is owned by the group. This is the principal behind planned unit developments, called PUDs. Homeowners in a PUD each own their house, the land under the house and some land around the house.
The rest of each building lot is owned by the PUD association. The shared ownership of yards, driveways and outbuildings can potentially save everyone money by having one group contract for lawn care, landscaping and snow removal. And, it is easier to ensure consistency in those areas when one group owns the areas where rules are sought to be enforced. Thus, compared to homeowner associations, homeowners in a PUD own a little less property and share a little more property ownership among themselves.
In a condominium, a homeowner does not own the house structure itself or the land. Each homeowner in a condo association usually literally owns only the three-dimensional space within the house structure. The walls, roofs and the land itself is owned by the condo association. A condo organization structure provides for the least individualized ownership (compared to homeowner associations and PUDs) because a condo association’s homeowners share ownership of almost all land and buildings. The money savings and ability to enforce uniform rules in a condo development can be efficient for this reason.
Some states also have a legal structure called “townhomes,” which provides that each homeowner owns their physical building (often literally connected to neighboring homes), but each homeowner does not own any of the physical land around that home. Thus, townhomes (defined by what is owned individually compared/contrasted with what is owned as a group) are a hybrid between homeowner associations and PUDs.
Ohio does not have a townhome set of laws, per se, but the laws for PUDs and condos make it pretty easy for groups of homeowners to own property together in a way that reflects a traditional townhome organizational structure.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.