Adopting More Stringent Requirements in an HOA or Condo About Hard Surface Flooring

Here is a recent question about hardwood floors in a homeowners association:

“Our HOA is seeking to institute acoustical standards that did not previously exist, above that required in building codes.  My question is whether or not they can place more stringent requirements on owners than existed when they bought their units under the then existing CC&Rs.  Have you written anything on this subject?”

The answer is Yes, and Yes. But I generally don’t stop there, but rather try to explain my answer for those who might think they have been brought to a precipice without an understanding of what to do next.

HOA and Condo boards can add more stringent standards in rules, without approval of owners (unless the CC&Rs or Bylaws require owner approval) IF the governing documents provide authority. However, not everyone knows what to look for. In this case, hardwood floors, which are a common source of grief for boards and neighbors who live under them, a board may adopt more stringent restrictions to address a possible nuisance. Most CC&Rs I have seen have a provision that protects owners “quiet enjoyment” of their property and prohibits nuisances. Those two words do not really specifically mean the board has to assure a “quiet environment”. They go deeper. It is up to a board to do what is reasonable to prevent situations that keep neighbors from enjoying their homes.

If there is an ongoing nuisance, such as unreasonable noise from hard surface floors, then a board needs at the least to investigate. By having some rules about what a person can do in a unit with hard surface floors, when noise transmission is a problem that has been identified in the complex, it is easier to set the bar higher and head off complaints. But the authority to set rules must be there as well, which generally appears in the Bylaws, but may also appear in the CC&Rs.

There is a whole other discussion about whether a board can require someone to REMOVE hard surface flooring – that is a stringent requirement it cannot add in the rules, at least for existing flooring. Questions and discussions around statutes of limitation, architectural approval, grandfathering, and circumstances leading up to the problem affect any legal determination of rights in that regard. Don’t try to figure this out at home. Get help if you have a question about what can be done legally, from someone in the know. And especially DO NOT think that retaliation in a noise situation EVER works!! I do consultations if you need more. Read about consultations and what they are about at californiacondoguru.com.

 

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