International Journal of Law in Context
Liberal Theory of Property, Condominium
The building engineer’s report on the low-rise condominium apartment building details the scope of work required. The roof is leaking, the elevator requires seismic upgrading, the windows and exterior siding are failing, and the heating system needs rebuilding. Although the owners of the individual apartments have been paying monthly fees in anticipation of these common property expenses, each owner faces a substantial special levy to cover the expected costs. The land developer’s offer to purchase the complex is eye-popping. Anticipating that the city will permit it to demolish the existing building and construct a high-rise condominium apartment tower on the site, the developer has offered owners a significant premium to induce their collective sale. If they were to accept the offer, owners would receive approximately twice the assessed value of their units based on individual sale. This scenario – the need for extensive and expensive renovations and an attractive purchase offer – is increasingly common as condominium buildings age and as cities change and grow. In some developments, it produces conflict between those owners who want to sell and those who wish to retain their individual apartments. In turn, the conflict raises important questions about the appropriate threshold for owner consent: should the dissolution of condominium and the resulting termination of private property interests require the unanimous consent of owners, or is a majority or super-majority vote sufficient?
Douglas C Harris, “A Liberal Theory of Property in condominium” (2022) 18:2 Int'l J L Context 245.