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Introduction To Subdivision and Condominium Conversion

Legal subdivision is the process of turning one parcel of property into two or more smaller parcels. This process is regulated by state and local law, and administered primarily by local (i.e. county, city or town) governments. There are several different subdivision processes that each result in a different kind of parcel. Here are brief descriptions of the most common types of subdivisions.

A “Lot Split” results in completely independent lots. Occasionally, these lots may share some elements, such as open space, a dividing wall, a stairway etc., in which case there will be one or more easements and/or maintenance agreements governing the shared elements.

A “Planned Development” results in lots share more common elements than the lots resulting from a Lot Split, typically streets, lighting, and recreational areas, where an association of owners is created with the power to collect money from each lot for the upkeep of the shared elements.

A “Condominium Project” results in lots (typically called units) that share even more common elements than those resulting from a Planned Development. Condominium units typically share roofs, walls, foundations, underlying land, and elements of plumbing and electrical systems. As with a Planned Development, there is an owners association with the power to collect money from each lot for the upkeep of the shared elements.

Subdivision can occur while the land is vacant, while construction is under way, or after buildings are already built. When subdivision occurs after buildings are built and have been occupied, it is called “Conversion”, and is often governed by a different, and more restrictive set of laws.


The Law of Subdivision and Condominium Conversion

In California, two state laws govern subdivision of real estate: The Subdivided Lands Act, and The Subdivision Map Act.The Subdivided Lands Act is a consumer protection law for the benefit of the buyers of homes and condominiums that result from subdivisions. For subdivisions involving five or more homes or condos, it requires that the state agency, the California Bureau of Real Estate or “BRE”, review and approve many elements of the subdivision. The Subdivision Map Act contains technical requirements for subdivisions and, more importantly, gives local governments the power to regulate and prohibit subdivisions. It is because of the Map Act that a city government can, for example, prohibit all condominium conversion, or require that converters comply with difficult or expensive preconditions. Since the Subdivision Map Act gives local governments the primary authority to regulate and control the subdivision process, people that want to do subdivisions are primarily dealing with local law and local government agencies.


The Process of Subdivision and Condominium Conversion

To understand subdivision process, it is useful to break it into two parts: mapping and legal documentation. The mapping part of the subdivision process involves submitting a drawing showing the proposed subdivision, along with an application package and fee, to a local governmental agency that will then process the application. After the application is approved, the mapping process ends with the recording of the approved map in the county records. The legal documentation part of the subdivision process involves creating documents that organize the relationship among the owners of the subdivided parcels. At a minimum, these documents describe how the parts of the subdivision that are shared by more than one lot will be maintained, and provide a mechanism for paying for this maintenance. Often, the documents go much further, creating an association of owners, limiting what can be constructed or changes on the lots, and imposing rules of conduct. Depending of the size and location of the subdivision, these legal documents may or may not be reviewed by a governmental agency; but, in all cases, the documents are recorded in the county records so that they govern all of the subdivided lots for many years or in perpetuity.


SirkinLaw’s Subdivision and Condominium Conversion Services

Although many of our practice areas involve properties throughout the US and the world, we limit the geographical reach of our subdivision and conversion services. We assist with the local subdivision application process only for conversions and new construction in San Francisco, and we offer subdivision legal documentation only for properties in California. To learn more about condo conversion and new construction subdivision legal services we offer, visit Our Services.

The largest component of our subdivision services is San Francisco condominium conversion. SirkinLaw has performed the most San Francisco condo conversions by far. We offer both full service condominium conversion and "do it yourself" condo conversion support, each with an exclusive, full-time conversion expert at your disposal to help with every step in the process. Please call us to discuss your conversion today. You may call Cam Perridge at 415-839-6407 or our main number 415-738-8545.


Learn More About Condominium Conversion in San Francisco

This page is a gateway to many articles concerning condominium conversion in San Francisco. Note that the sale of a parcel of real estate as a tenancy in common (TIC) with exclusive occupancy rights is neither a subdivision nor a conversion, and is not discussed on this page.

Condominium Conversion Requirements
New Condominium Conversion Lottery Bypass Law
Qualification requirements for the new condo law include conversion fee, owner-occupancy, and lifetime leases. Lottery suspension and the lawsuit poison pill.
Condominium Conversion Workshop Video
This 90 minute video explains who qualifies to convert under the new TIC/condominium conversion bypass law, clearly explains the lifetime lease requirements, clarifies how a lawsuit would affect the new TIC/condo law and whether it is necessary to submit a conversion application immediately, and gives step by step instructions for the condo conversion process.
San Francisco's Condo Conversion Lottery System
How does the SF condominium lottery work? The chances of winning the condo lotto, and how many years it takes to win. When will the condo lottery resume?
Simple Summary of San Francisco Condominium Conversion Rules
Condo conversion for dummies: Quickly determine if your property qualifies, and learn how to convert your building to condominiums.
San Francisco Condominium Conversion Rules and Process
Condominium conversion step-by-step. How to qualify for conversion and bypass the condo lottery? How long does condo-izing take and how much does it cost?
Deciding Whether to Convert to Condominiums
Is converting to condominiums worthwhile? Understand the pros and cons of condo conversion, and learn how to weigh its costs and benefits.
Sell or Move Out Before or During Condo Conversion?
Can an owner move after satisfying condominium conversion owner-occupancy requirements but before applying? Is it okay to sell while conversion is in process?
Eviction History and Condominium Conversion Eligibility
Which past evictions prevent a building from converting to condos in San Francisco? How to analyze eviction history and tell if and when a condo conversion is possible.
Condo Conversion Exemption for Renovations or Additions
Can major renovations or building expansions allow a building to convert to condominiums with owner-occupancy or winning the condo lotto? What is “new construction”?
Condominium Conversion In Oakland
Restrictions on condominium conversion in Oakland, condo conversion rules and procedures, and the process of converting a building to condominiums in Oakland. (589 KBytes, PDF)
Condominium Conversion Procedures
New TIC Bypass Condominium Conversion Application
The latest San Francisco DPW condo conversion application form/instruction packet for the new expedited conversion program, released March 27, 2014. (836 KBytes, PDF)
SF Condominium Conversion Lifetime Lease Forms
These are the forms and instructions that the San Francisco Department of Public Works has released for buildings converting to condos under the new lottery bypass program where there are rental tenants. (Updated 3/28/14) (853 KBytes, PDF)
SFDPW Lifetime Lease FAQ
Information regarding the lifetime leases that must be offered to tenants in buildings converting to condominiums under San Francisco's new lottery bypass program (the "ECP"). This information reflects the agency's opinions and may not correctly state the law. Keep in mind that the courts, and not DPW, will have the final say on the obligations of owners and the rights of tenants. (266 KBytes, PDF)
Condominium Conversion Top 10 Questions
Quick answers to the 10 most commonly-asked questions about the San Francisco condominium conversion process.
Condominium Conversion FAQs
This article provides detailed answers to the questions we are most frequently asked by clients converting their San Francisco properties to condominiums. It is designed for those who have already won or bypassed the condo lottery.
How To Fasttrack Your Condo Lottery Bypass Conversion
San Francisco allows two-unit owner occupied buildings to bypass the conversion lottery and convert to condominiums following a one-year owner-occupancy period. This article explains how you can fasttrack the condominium conversion process.
Condominium Conversion Flowchart
A detailed flowchart showing the steps required for condominium conversion in San Francisco (35 KBytes, PDF)
Obtaining A Tax Certificate For Condominium Conversion
Condo converting owners must prepay property tax based on the time of year conversion is completed. This article explains payment amounts and tax certificate requirements and answers the most commonly asked questions about property tax and condominium conversion.
Tenant Intent to Purchase Form
An example of a Tenant Intent to Purchase form for San Francisco (43 KBytes, PDF)
Forming and Operating a Small Condominium Homeowners Association--General Version
Step-by-step instructions for starting and running a small (2-20 unit) homeowners association, including forming an HOA, owner meetings, budgeting, establishment and collection of HOA dues, record keeping, taxes and governmental filings, and enforcement of homeowner obligations. This article contains information for both incorporated and unincorporated associations, and is directed at homeowners in all U.S. states.
Starting and Operating 2-4 Unit Condominium Homeowners Associations In California
This article provides step-by-step instructions for starting and operating a condominium homeowners association for a 2-4 unit property in California.
Starting And Operating An Incorporated Homeowners Association In California
This article provides step-by-step instructions for starting and running an incorporated California homeowners association.
CC&Rs and Bylaws for Mixed-Use Condominiums
This Articles explains the special risks and potential disputes that should be addressed in condominium documents for mixed-use (commercial and residential) condominium owners associations.
Condominium Conversion Physical Inspections (96 KBytes, PDF)
San Francisco Condominium Conversion Status Tracking
Condominium Documents For Small (2-4 Unit) Properties
Learn how CC&Rs and Bylaws for smaller condo HOAs are different, and why small homeowner associations should periodically update their documents.
Buying A Condominium
Condo Buyer's Checklist
Learn what to look for in CC&Rs, Bylaws and HOA financial information before buying a condominium.
Law of Condominium Conversion
San Francisco Subdivision Code
Relevant sections of San Francisco law governing condominium conversion in San Francisco, effective as of September 2, 2013.
California Subdivided Lands Act
CALIFORNIA CODES BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS CODE SECTION 11000-11023, the California consumer protection law that regulates the sale of subdivisions and undivided interests such as tenants in common (TICs) (474 KBytes, HTM)
California Subdivision Map Act
CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 66410-66499, the California law that specifies how cities and counties can restrict lot splits, condominium conversions and other subdivisions (1785 KBytes, HTM)
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