Condominium versus Landominium — what’s the difference under Ohio law?

The most popular question this week at our seminar on Ohio Condominium law was:

What’s the difference between a condominium and a landominium under Ohio law?

Well, we hate to give such a lawyerly answer, but the question requires it.

We are taught to think of rights in real estate as a bundle of straws with an infinite number of straws in it.  One straw might be the right to possession for a year, another straw might be the mineral rights under the property, another straw might be the right to occupy in common certain areas of the property, such as a shared easement.  The owner of property has the right to parcel out these rights contractually as he sees fit.

Ohio law does not define a landominium, and a developer signing a declaration “dividing up” these property rights can thus largely on his own determine the contractual rights and obligations under the landominium documents, such as what are common areas, what areas the association maintains, voting rights of owners, etc.  Acccordingly, a landominium is largely whatever a developer says it is.  And it will be different project -to-project.

In some degree of contrast, Ohio law does define a condominium.  And a declaration dividing up those property rights in a condominium has some minimum contents under the Ohio condominium statute.  For example, all condominium property is divided between “unit” and “common areas,” and “common areas” are divided between “general common areas” and “limited common areas,” i.e., limited in use to fewer than all unit owners.

But, again, the creation of a condominium is largely a creature of contract, not statute.  So, within the minimum constraints of the condominium statute, the developer largely decides what the declaration will contain and how to allocate the rights among the unit owners.

So, in short, to be a “condominium” under Ohio law the declaration must contain the minimum requirements of the statute, and a “landominium” is whatever the developer says it is.

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