The determination of whether a property is developed as a condominium project or a planned unit development is usually based on the physical characteristics of the buildings. Projects with only vertically-stacked units are always condominiums. Projects with only detached homes are almost always planned unit developments. Projects involving horizontally attached homes, or a combination of different home types, can be formed as either condominiums or planned unit developments. The most significant difference between condominium projects and planned unit developments is the distinct nature of the individually owned and group owned portions of the property. The individually owned portion of a condominium is called the unit and typically consists of interior space within a defined set of walls, floors, and ceilings. Condominium owners also frequently have exclusive use of decks, patios, and parking areas. The individually owned portion of a planned development is called the lot and typically consists of a piece of land and everything on it. Condominiums have common elements, which are usually all the structural elements of the building(s) housing the units, and all land and exterior areas. The common areas in a planned development are usually streets, open space, and recreational facilities.
Condominium projects and planned unit developments also differ with respect to the form of joint ownership of common area or common elements. Title to the common elements in a condominium must be held by the owners in percentage shares of undivided interest. By contrast, title to the common area in a planned unit development is almost always held by the homeowners’ association.
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