The difference between condominiums and other types of homes, is the ownership of the land. In a condominium, you own a portion of all the land, the common elements (pool, clubhouse, etc.), and every building improvement with all other homeowners. All associations are referred to as homeowner's associations (HOA) whether condo or a single family home in a planned subdivision. Typically, you'll hear condo association for condominiums and homeowner's associations for all other types of residences in a deed restricted community (where owners are "restricted" in the use of their property).

Both condominiums and homeowner's associations own their properties in "fee simple", the greatest amount of rights in homeownership in the vast majority of instances. There are still some cases of "leaseholds" with condominiums, especially some of the older ones and this is where the land is not owned in common with the other homeowners but leased (typically for 99 years).

If you purchase a home in a condominium or a HOA subdivision, your purchase will be subject to your review and acceptance of the "docs". The governing documents (docs) of either a condominium or a HOA subdivision tell you how you can "use" your property. The documents fall into three categories: the articles of incorporation (associations are commonly incorporated under the not for profit portion of the state law), the declaration (your property rights), and the by-laws (the day to day operation of the association). Most associations will also have a set of "rules and regulations" which are board actions as to what the residents, tenants or guests may do.

If you buy new Tampa condos, under Florida law for new construction you will have 15 days to review the governing documents. The condominium disclosure should be given as part of your offer to purchase that will tell you how long you have to approve the documents, the monthly association fees, and whether or not any of the common elements, e.g., the pool, clubhouse, etc., are leased or owned by the association. Do yourself a favor and use this valuable window of time. You can still write an offer on the purchase but you might "miss" this important fact. Do not sign away your rights to investigate what can and cannot be done in your new community, and consult an attorney if necessary. You don't want to find out too late that you are not allowed a beloved pet, more than 2-3 house guests at a time, a truck or motorcycle, or the ability to rent your unit. These are "common" prohibitions in Florida.

For existing, or resale condominium units, the time period is three (3) days from the date you receive a copy of the documents. So before you buy, know what you're getting into and make a sound and wise decision.

For homeowner's associations you will own the land even if you are attached to another residence by a common wall and own elements in "common" with the other homeowners, such as a pool or tennis courts. The level of services you receive for the payment of your monthly assessment may vary greatly from association to association. Some may provide lawn maintenance and some may provide reserves for roof replacement. These types of HOA's usually do not provide any type of homeowner's insurance for your individual building unit (but they can), so this may be an additional expense you will want to consider when purchasing. Just because homes are connected to one another and share amenities does not always mean that they are a condominium project. That is a common mistake when purchasing these types of properties in Florida. For homeowner' associations you will be given three (3) days to review and approve the documents and you should be given this notice at the same time you are given your offer to purchase.

In essence, unless it is a new condominium construction, then you'll have three days in which to cancel your offer to purchase (once you have received a copy of the documents) without any type of penalty or loss of your earnest money deposit. And, as an aside you should review and question the budget, reserves, and if applicable, any type of special assessments you may be required to pay.

By doing your homework and paying attention to these types of details, your Tampa Condos home purchase should be an enjoyable experience.