The Virginia Condominium Act Turns 50


While the country is set to celebrate Independence Day, that is not the only special occasion this week. July 1 is the day that most new laws in Virginia take effect. The Virginia Condominium Act (the “Act”) was enacted on July 1, 1974. It superseded the Horizontal Property Act, which was enacted in 1962. Condominiums are purely “creatures of statute” meaning that without the laws permitting them, they would not exist.  In other words, they are a legal entity created by statute. The Act is a legislative marvel, crafted by deep thinkers and innovators. It was a new breed. 

Turning 50 can have different meanings for different people, but it is usually viewed as a significant number, whether a birthday or anniversary.  It can be “golden”. Birthdays generally are times of reflection to look back on the past and look forward to the future. The purpose of this article is to celebrate the Condominium Act and provide a few thoughts on my 35+ years of law practice as it seemed only appropriate at this milestone for a statutory scheme that has occupied a lot of my professional life and headspace.

When I began my practice in community association law, the Condominium Act was often said to be in its infancy. There were not many cases involving condominiums, nor were there many practitioners who understood its nature or nuances. Notwithstanding, the condominium concept grew both in number and practice and is now middle aged. There are more practitioners who “specialize” in this area, and the body of case law has grown as well. This is due not just to the fact that it is a popular form of home ownership. Traditionally, it has been a form of affordable as well as luxury housing, and it is not restricted to residential use. I have had the pleasure of seeing how this area has evolved and developed.

A condominium is a form of real property ownership in which an owner owns a unit and a portion of the common elements in common with other owners in the condominium. The unit is defined by boundaries that can be air space or a platted lot. The concept of shared rights and responsibilities has appeal and conflict. The unit owners’ association is governed by a representative group and has many “powers” of a government, including the power to assess to pay common expenses, maintain property within its borders, promulgate rules and enforce its covenants and rules, and adjudicate violations and disputes.  It is a microcosm of society that has all of the issues facing families, business, and the greater community, and requires the support, care and attention of its residents, volunteer leaders, managers, professionals and vendors.  Each condominium has its own personality, a product of the Act with its own individual value, restrictions, interests and characteristics.  

At 50, the condominium concept is established. It has experienced numerous successes, encountered some failures, and weathered rough times. And some condominiums are feeling their age, in need of serious help, whether the documentation creating it, financial strength or the physical structures, and pondering its relevance as termination may be an option. Nonetheless, the Condominium Act has proved to be a strong foundation for a new kind of ownership that has proliferated and been fruitful. It should be celebrated for what it has and will be in the decades to come.   


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