Don’t Know the Rules in Your HOA or Condo? Better Learn Them!

HOA and Condo law is complicated. The laws are hard to read and understand. The same goes for Governing Documents of a homeowners association, generally CC&Rs. They can be really hard to read too. That is why homeowner association boards ought to spend some time putting together rules that are short and easy to read and understand and that address the most important things that owners need to know, such as the restrictions on replacing carpetting in upper units with a like sound deadening product or adequate soundproofing when considering other flooring products.

Take this email I received to heart:

“I own a condo paid in full/cash it.  after living in for 6 months  i
decided to change to carpet to woodfloor due to our health issues of my mom and
myself [severe allergy and some oo tther health issues].  the association told me
to remove the wood floor and put back the carpet, and that i need to request
prior approval because we live upstairs.  this is our first time to live in a
private community, they expect me understand and knows the rules of 94 pages
manual.  any suggestions?”
My suggestion is that owners do some of the work to educate themselves, such as at least trying to read the set of documents that is passed on when you purchase property in a common interest development (or getting someone to help you). Or at the very least learn what you are buying into by looking for resources – such as my two books “FINDING THE KEY TO YOUR CASTLE” AND “THE CONDO OWNERS HANDBOOK” which are available on my website. You might also peruse the site (www.californiacondoguru.com) for lots of free information and two free blogs that offer answers to pressing issues. I have written many many times about the noise issues created by replacement of carpeting with hard surface or laminate flooring that echoes when you walk on it or talk loud in a room with wall to wall hard surface flooring.
As for the excuse of allergies, I am sympathetic, but also recognize that there are products available that will work when coupled with the right kind of sound deadening insulation. There are rubber mats available that also can alleviate noise transmission issues.
Check your documents! See if there are restrictions on replacing flooring, and be a good neighbor!  There are 29 legal codes in California and no citizen is expected to know them all. Still, we are all expected to have a sense of what is right, wrong, moral and neighborly, and expected to get the right kind of professional help when we need it, if there is something we need to know about that we cannot understand. Have you heard the phrase “Ignorance is no excuse?”
As far as doing anything that creates an untenable nuisance for the neighbors below, even if the association documents allow replacement of flooring on the second and higher stories with hard surface flooring, and even if the fair housing laws require accomodations for disabilities, one has to beware when the change imposes an unreasonable burden or adversely affects the “quiet enjoyment” of a neighbor. It might have to be “undone.”
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