What Can I do? Our HOA Court Has Been Invaded By Children.

Have you ever heard of this problem – children playing in the street in your HOA because they have nowhere else to play?

It came about when I was talking with a group of woman a few days ago in an art class. One woman mentioned that she was not going home right after class because of problems at her condo. Of course, my interest was piqued. I asked, “What’s up?”

“Oh, life has become unbearable. I live at the end of a street in what used to be a quiet neighborhood. Now 4 out of the 6 homes are rented and each family has 3 or 4 children. The street has been turned into a playground and there are kids out there screaming every day. It sounds like a war zone. My neighbor and I who have lived there the longest feel like we have been invaded. It is no longer a quiet neighborhood. In fact, each time we drive up and the kids are out (completely unsupervised), we have to carefully navigate around them to get into our garages. One day I honked at a child who looked to be about 4 years old because he was standing in the street. His response was to run alongside my SUV all the way until I was in my garage. My heart was beating hard. I could not see him at all times.  It was very frightening. My neighbor and I have to watch out for kids every day about 4 when school is out. It was really bad this summer.

I have called the manager many times over the past year to report these kinds of things. Nothing happens. Once in a while there is an article in the newsletter about not playing in the streets. But I do not think the tenants read, or even receive the newsletter.

The manager has told me to log dates and times and incident and report them to the Board. Otherwise they can’t do much. Why should I have to do that? My street is an accident waiting to happen, and I am afraid of two things – backing into child or just as worrisome – having a heart attack by just missing a child. But I also don’t want to feel like I have to be a nag to control this problem.”

Remember the good old days where we can go outside anytime of the day or night over to our friend’s houses and play anywhere including the neighborhood parks without our parents worrying about us being snatched up by a sex criminal?  Those days are over on sorry to say. The young parents can hardly let the children out of their sight. Playtime with other kids almost has to be by play date only, or out in the court.

Is Board Action Required? Boards want to know when they should act. If an owner brings to the board a problem that involves a nuisance, then a board should act. When I say “act” I don’t mean go jump to arms. Preliminary “action” should include an investigation and a review of the governing documents. Most CC&Rs (99% of those I’ve seen) have a clause in them that prohibits nuisances. Even civil law has codes that prohibit nuisances. The idea is that people should act reasonably and no one should be able to act in such a manner that it infringes on the “quiet enjoyment” of the neighbors. “Quiet enjoyment” doesn’t mean keep quiet by the swimming pool or turn the noise down, it means – per a free web definition: “… the right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment of real property by a tenant or landowner…” (As opposed to a squatter.)  If there is a bona fide nuisance, then the board should take some kind of action. Child noise during the day is not necessarily a nuisance. However, there are two sides to every inquiry. Boards have come to me unhappy because someone is running a day care center in the development and the neighbors are complaining about the noise. Those that come to me want to clamp down on the “day care” provider. “How dare they, they say – that is running a business in association and our CC&Rs prevent that.” Actually, the law in California does specifically consider day care homes to be residential use and noncommercial use and sets up some protections which prohibit enforcement of restrictions against certain daycare homes of certain sizes in a residential development. The reason is stated in the statute and that is an intent to make sure that Californians can procure childcare close to home. That said, the boards are concerned about a lot more than noise – they are concerned about liability issues, traffic and parking caused by bringing extra vehicles in the development, overuse of the facilities like the pool, and other issues like that.

On the other hand, the board in this case has shifted the burden to the complaining homeowners to document a specific problem. In other words, if there was a day care home in the court, and all the kids were let out to play, even supervised, the board might be looking at this differently. Since the noisy loose kids live in the neighborhood, the board may feel it needs a better excuse to take any kind of action, because kid noise during the day isn’t “automatically” a nuisance.

The Board has it’s limitations, and part of the solution to this problem has to come from the parents of the children involved, and that means Board – the tenants will have to be involved somehow. The Board needs, in my estimation, to consider either bringing the parties together or proposing a solution. The 4 owners with tenants and the tenants and the 2 owners who do not have children are not going to figure this out on their own.

The next monthly E-Newsletter (September 2014) coming out on September 23 is sent out free if you sign up and will also be available through californiacondoguru.com and will discuss these issues and solutions in more details. Believe me when I say there is more to this than meets the eye! A lot more. And it is my own daughter who lives in a court where 4 of the 6 owners have children (my grandchildren included) and 2 of the 6 do not, that the solution came from. Sign up today, or check the E-News Archives at the end of the week for the full article. Believe me, for every problem there is a solution!

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