A common problem encountered by condominium associations is excessive noise created by bootlegged hardwood floors. Some owners have the mistaken belief they can override CC&R restrictions by approval from the building department or claiming allergies. The first is never true and the second may require some form of reasonable accommodation.
Violation. In Ryland Mews HOA v. Munoz, a new owner installed hardwood floors in violation of the CC&Rs and created intolerable noise conditions for the owner below. When confronted, Munoz refused to mitigate the problem claiming his wife suffered severe allergies.The association sued Munoz for (i) creating a nuisance that unreasonably interfered with the quiet enjoyment of another owner's condominium, (ii) altering his unit in a manner that increased sound transmission to an adjoining unit, and (iii) failing to get written approval from the architectural committee.
Court Order. The association asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction that Munoz address the noise transmission problem pending trial on the merits. The court agreed and ordered Munoz to install rugs over 80% of his floors. Munoz appealed and lost. Munoz' violation of the CC&Rs and his refusal to compromise saddled him with an order to install rugs and a looming trial that could result in fines, an award of attorneys' fees, and an order to remove his hardwood floors. (Ryland Mews HOA v. Munoz.)
Reasonableness. Having an allergy does not give an owner the right to ruin a neighbor's life. There are plenty of hypoallergenic rugs and other products on the market that could have resolved the allergy without creating noise problems. On the other hand, if the association had flatly refused the installation of flooring of any kind, it could have lost the case. Associations must be careful to balance their restrictions against the needs of the disabled. Some guidance is offered by an unpublished case that addresses hardwood floors and the disabled. In this case, the association was found to have discriminated against a disabled member when it refused to reasonably accommodate her hardwood floors. (Savoy v. Zhang.)
Transfer of Property. If the owner had sold his unit without resolving the unauthorized installation of floors, the violation would have transferred to the buyer.
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