When you buy a multi-family townhome or a condominium, you will likely come across a document that will begin with the words “Declaration of,” followed by some combination of the words, “grants,” “easements, “covenants,” “restrictions,” and “party wall agreement.” Though you may come across the other declarations if you were to buy a single-family home, the party wall agreement is specific to multi-dwelling units.
The party wall is the shared, common wall between two units. When you buy a unit that shares a wall with another unit, you will need to sign a party wall agreement. Agreeing to this private contract is non-negotiable because, like the other declarations, this agreement generally “runs with the land” (i.e., when you buy the property, you effectively buy the declarations along with it). When multi-family units are created, these declarations are recorded in the public record, so that prospective buyers can examine them closely.
Party wall agreements can exist either within or outside Homeowner Associations (“HOA”), meaning that you don't need to have an HOA to have a party wall agreement. This is good news for the buyer who wants to avoid HOAs, as a party wall agreement can offer security and protection without the expense of an HOA. In fact, non-HOA developments are becoming increasingly more common, if not preferred.
What does a party wall agreement actually do? Basically, it provides ground rules for the shared wall. If an owner violates this agreement, the party wall agreement will likely provide remedies for that as well.
The goal is to anticipate and solve disputes between the parties. It answers questions like:
- What kind of insurance do I need to have? How much do I need to have?
- What if there is a structural problem with the wall?
- Who is responsible for expenses if the wall is damaged or destroyed? Does it matter how the wall was damaged or destroyed?
- Am I allowed to access shared utility lines within the wall?
- Can I paint my side of the wall? Can I hang pictures on my side of the wall?
By examining your party wall agreement, you can determine the answers to these questions. If you don't like or don't agree with the party wall agreement, you can also amend or modify it with both parties' mutual agreement. The procedure for doing this is usually spelled out in the party wall agreement itself. After an amendment or modification is written and agreed upon, it is recorded in the county records as well. An attorney can be very useful for examining or drafting amendments to these documents, as an attorney likely drafted them in the first place!
Have more questions on declarations and covenants? See the rest of our blog series!
The information contained on this blog is intended to be general information only and not legal advice. This blog topic is not intended to be fully comprehensive. For these reasons, we suggest you seek a licensed attorney to help you review your declaration documents. If you have any questions about the contents of this blog or if you need legal advice regarding your project, please contact the Beavers O'Connell Group at (720)538-0363 or contact the firm on BOG's Contact Us page.