All condominium projects consist of two parts: the unit which is individually owned; and the common elements which are shared and jointly owned by all of the individual owners. Some common elements are created as exclusive use common elements, such as balconies and patios etc. Although owned by all the owners, they are attached to one or more units for all time and are for the sole use of the unit or units to which they are attached. The declaration and/or the description of the condominium corporation describe these in detail.
The contents of declarations can differ. Areas designated as common elements in one condominium corporation might be parts of individual units in another. Most often the unit is defined by its surrounding walls; however, in some cases the unit includes additional areas such as front and back yards (these are sometimes known as "Freehold condominiums"). Such distinctions can be important when it comes to the question of payment for window washing service or repairs to the exterior brick or roof of a condominium townhouse.
A typical residential unit in an apartment style condominium project consists of a living room, kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, bathrooms, entranceway hall and closets. Townhouses and detached units might include basements, garages and front or back yards as well. The unit is the property of the owner and the unit owner is usually responsible for its maintenance and/or repair.
The common elements are the parts of the development outside the individual units. These can consist of corridors, lobbies, and elevators, and mechanical and electrical systems in apartment style condominium projects as well as recreational facilities, parking areas, the grounds and structural parts of buildings. Their maintenance and repair are normally the responsibility of the corporation.
The exclusive use common elements may be maintained and/or repaired by either the owner or owners who have their exclusive use or the corporation, depending on what is provided in the declaration. Generally, balconies, parking spaces, storage lockers and lawns in townhouse condominiums are exclusive use common elements; and the cost of their maintenance may be shared by all owners or may be paid by the owner entitled to their exclusive use. Since each developer has the right to determine what part of the property will constitute the units and exclusive use common elements, every condominium may be slightly different.