Q: I recently bought a condo and was in the process of replacing the carpet with laminate flooring because of allergies. The HOA informed me that there is a rule prohibiting hard flooring to be installed in condominiums above another condominium. I asked the management company for the definition of “hard flooring” but have been ignored. Is there a legal definition? Would vinyl flooring or linoleum be considered “hard flooring” or is carpet my only option? This is a health issue. — Thanks, R.N., Los Angeles
A: California Fair Housing laws and regulations require an HOA makes “reasonable” accommodations upon request to deal with your allergy issue (a disability). Have you provided the HOA with documentation that your allergies do not permit you to have carpeted floors? However, if you have documented the health necessity of the hard floor, that does not end the discussion. The purpose of a restriction against hard floors above the ground floor is to protect the lower neighbor from noise nuisance.
The accommodation of a non-carpeted floor could be unreasonable if it creates a disturbance for the lower neighbor. So, your HOA and you should talk about regulations called “interactive process” to agree on reasonable measures to buffer the floor. That may require the advice of an acoustic expert to specify an installation providing a reasonable amount of buffering.
Since the cost of accommodation is normally paid by the requestor, you may be asked to pay for the consultation. The HOA also may ask you to promise to restore the carpeting after you move out.
However, even if the HOA approves the buffered new floor, your lower neighbor still could find the noise objectionable, so you may want to include them in the discussion.
Q: Since COVID-19, more kids have been playing outside of our condos (including mine). It’s very peaceful and quiet even with the kids riding bikes, and they usually ride with their parents. Now the HOA announced that, per its governing documents, recreational and sports activities of any kind are not allowed in common areas, including no baseball, scooter or bike riding, motorized toy cars, skateboarding or skating.
Can they do this? I know it doesn’t mention children but that’s who the HOA is targeting. — A.O,, Newark
A: Rules mentioning or targeting children may violate state and federal Fair Housing laws. Such rules are considered “familial status” discrimination, which is illegal except in age-restricted communities. However, if the rules discuss prohibited activities, and not the age of the person pursuing the activity, the HOA may be within the law.
HOAs often restrict recreation in common area streets, walkways, and landscaped areas to protect residents from nuisance, property from damage, and, most importantly, the participants from being injured by pursuing recreational activities in areas not intended for recreation. So, the HOA might not actually be targeting children but instead trying to prevent potentially dangerous activities in common areas.
With schools mostly closed at present, there is an understandable pressure on families with children, but safety cannot be overlooked.
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com.
Source: Orange County Register