Multi-unit developments are developments of several homes that share certain facilities. In the case of apartments and duplexes, these shared facilities can include entrance halls, lifts and the internal pipework for common systems, such as water.
Multi-unit developments are usually made up of apartments or duplexes, but can also be made up of townhouses or stand-alone houses that share facilities, such as car parks or outdoor areas, or share services, such as security and waste collection.
Buying and living in a multi-unit development is different to buying and living in a traditional stand-alone house. When you buy a unit in a multi-unit development, you buy both your individual property and a share of the ownership of the common areas. Because of this, you have two legal interests:
- As the owner of your individual unit
- As a part owner of the common areas
When you buy a property in a multi-unit development, you automatically become a member of the Owners’ Management Company (OMC), which is a legal structure designed to protect the interests of owners in the development.
If you are buying a property in an established development, ask the estate agent if an OMC is in place. Since 2011, it is a legal requirement that all multi-unit developments have an OMC in place, but not all do, so it is important to confirm this before you consider buying your property. Your solicitor should check this for you.
When you buy a property in a multi unit development, you sign a lease contract. This contract sets out your legal responsibilities and obligations, as well as those of the developer and the OMC.
When you sign a contract, you are legally committing to the terms of the contract. That means you cannot opt out of any of its terms and conditions. For example, if it states that you will pay service charges and become a member of the OMC, you can't opt out of these obligations later. When buying a property, always ask your solicitor to explain your contract's terms and conditions, so that you fully understand them. The contract will also set out your part ownership of the common areas, and the rights and responsibilities this brings.
Your lease contract should include clauses about:
- The service charge for the first year and how the charges will be calculated.
- Interest rates payable for late payment of service charges (if any).
- How owners should obey any house rules and regulations set down by the OMC.
- What you must do to maintain your property, such as keeping it in good repair.
Always make sure your solicitor gives you a copy of the contract after you have signed it, as you might need it in the future.
Get information on:
- Owner Management Companies (OMCs)
- The role of developers
- Managing agents
- Service charges
- House rules