This article will deal with legal problems relating to the financing of condominiums and cooperatives. While space does not permit a detailed treatment of the non-financing aspects of these forms of ownership, a rudimentary overview of the legal relationships involved will preface discussion of the central topic. Both condominiums and cooperatives are legal formats for “unit ownership” – that is, the ownership of a physically defined portion of a larger parcel of (usually improved) real property. In the majority of cases, the “unit” is a residential apartment in a multifamily housing project. Condominiums are much more tightly controlled by stage legislation than are cooperatives, and in recent years many states have amended their condominium statutes to permit the creation of condominiums in non-residential property, including commercial and industrial buildings, and even on unimproved land. There are no significant legal barriers to non-residential cooperative ownership, although it is quite rare. In most cases the owner of a condominium or cooperative unit is also a participant in some organization of owners which has responsibility for the operation, maintenance, and management of the “common areas” – features of the building or project which are used or available for use by all unit owners, such as lobbies, stairwells, elevators, grounds and landscaping, and often recreational facilities. The principal distinctions between condominiums and cooperatives are discussed below.
Dale A. Whitman, Financing Condominiums and Cooperatives, 13 Tulsa L.J. 15 (1977-1978).