The association's financial, political and legal conditions are very important to your investment and quality of life:
Start by studying the associations covenants, codes and restrictions, or CC&Rs, and find out if you can live by them. For example, if the rules prohibit loud music after a certain hour and you like to play your CDs late at night, this may not be the place for you. Don't move in thinking you can get away with violating the rules or change them later because you may find yourself in turmoil with determined neighbors firmly in control of the association board.
Find out all you can about the association's finances. Beyond reviewing the budget, talk to the association treasurer and find out if dues are expected to increase and if any special assessments are planned. Ask if special inspections have revealed problems with roofs or plumbing that may cause a dues hike or special assessment later on.
Call and meet with the association president. If you are the type of person who despises intrusions into your private life and the president seems more interested in gossip about the residents than maintaining the property, this may not be the right condo complex for you.
Speak with residents to get their views on the association's finances, its property manager, how it operates and any politics.
Associations are volunteer organizations with elected boards, like a mini- government, so politics can enter the picture and spoil a good thing.
Lastly, take some time to understand how homeowners associations are organized and how they conduct business. Like all real estate investments, the more you know the better off you are.
Cost basis is a term for the money an owner spends for permanent improvements throughout their time in the home and is used to reduce eventual capital gains taxes when the property is sold. For example, if the association puts a new roof on a building, the expense could be considered part of a condo owner's cost basis only if they lived directly underneath it.
Overall improvements to common areas, such as the installation of a swimming pool, need to be considered on a case-by-case basis but most can be included in the cost basis of any owner who can show their home directly benefits from the work.
In all states, the Federal Fair Housing Act provides protection against discrimination for people with physical or mental disabilities. Discrimination includes the refusal to make reasonable modifications to buildings that aren't accessible to the disabled.
Covenants, codes and restrictions, or CC&Rs, usually spell out what activities can and cannot be conducted on common property. Some associations prevent people from barbecuing on their balconies or hanging large plants from the railings.
However, the larger issue of regulating personal conduct is not so clear-cut. It literally depends on what side of the fence you're on. If the sunbather can be seen from a public vantage point -- not by someone who must climb a tree or peer through binoculars -- then the rule probably would be considered reasonable, say legal experts.
Incidentally, there are places where nudity is tolerated but again, only out of public view.