A parking stall is an important asset to a condominium unit. Buyers may evaluate if the space fits their car, how close to the unit the space is, or if there is enough room to get in and out of the vehicle. However, don’t assume the stall being used by occupants of the unit actually is the legally assigned stall.
Owners sometimes enter into informal agreements among themselves to use a parking stall other than the one assigned to them. This could be for the convenience of one or both parties due to location or size. These informal agreements can stretch out for many years and become ingrained association operations. Association staff and other residents who see an owner park in the same spot for years assume the stall belongs to the unit. Owners may forget, or neglect to pass on critical information regarding the informal parking arrangements at the time of sale.
It is not enough to ask association staff about parking information. A prospective buyer should also review the condominium documents. It’s a sad situation when a buyer discovers that the stall he thought was his, and reviewed before purchasing the unit, does not actually belong to the unit. Problems arise when a vehicle, such as a large SUV, can’t get into the legally assigned stall or the unit owner has physical requirements which are not met by the legal parking stall. A unit may historically use a stall of a neighbor that does not own a vehicle, but actually has no legal right to the stall.
Make sure to confirm which stall, if any, is legally assigned to a unit when purchasing. Often a prospective purchaser or their real estate sales agent may rely on the property manager, or an onsite resident manager of a condominium association to advise them of which parking stall comes with a particular unit. However, the only positive way of determining what parking stall is legally attached to a unit is to review the Declaration of Condominium Property Regime (or in older buildings Horizontal Property Regime) and any amendments made after the document date.
Section 514B-40, Hawaii Revised Statutes, allows a unit owner, subject to the consent of any mortgagees or lessors of that unit, to transfer or exchange a limited common element (in this instance, a parking stall) that is assigned to the unit, to another unit. Any transfer must be executed and recorded as an amendment to the Declaration. The amendment must be executed only by the owner of the unit whose limited common element is being transferred and the owner of the unit receiving the limited common element. Moreover, a copy of the executed amendment must be delivered to the association.
To avoid parking problems, and the potential for litigation, always consult the legally binding paperwork, not just the assurances of the owner or staff.