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Condo Living Isn't for Everyone

Prospective homeowners should make themselves aware of all the rules and restrictions.

April 05, 1998|SUE BRANICA | Sue Branica writes from Tustin

One recent article concerned a homeowner association whose management company and board of directors quit over disagreements within the association. Another concerned the rise in home and condo prices in Southern California. Condominiums were mentioned as the housing solution for those making $40,000 to $60,000 annually.

Condominium living is not for everyone. Living in a condominium requires compromise. Rules are established to keep order and respect the privacy of your neighbors, who live very close. This way of life is very difficult for people who are used to the freedoms provided by a detached home. If you feel the rules might be too restrictive, or that the amenities do not meet your needs, do not move in. You will rarely be able to change things to meet your needs through your association.

1. Parking: Always restricted in condominium living. If you like the freedom of owning more than one or two cars, or plan on having additional family members or roommates move in--do not move in. You will not gain more parking spaces.

2. Children: Play areas, if they exist, will be small. Pools rarely have lifeguards. Streets have a steady flow of traffic coming through at all hours. Speeding vehicles are common, because these are private streets, not patrolled by city police.

3. Dogs: If you don't have a yard, don't even think about it. Dogs have to poop, and balconies are not made to accommodate dog waste. You cannot rinse your balcony off into the residence below. Also, associations do not like dogs because of the continual damage they do to the common area landscaping, causing additional expense for everyone.

As a former association board member, I can tell you that these three topics are what every meeting was about. The arguments became divisive and frustrating to the board, who could rarely do anything to find a solution for people complaining about these topics. They just have lifestyles that do not fit within the restrictive living of a condominium.

I was accused of using my position on the board to make rules that were in my best interest. The issue? A neighbor decided to set up a business in a fire lane less than 15 feet from my front door. The constant noise of a gas-powered generator and use of my parking space was my complaint. He was able to round up several supporters to support his right to run a business inside the complex. The board prohibited this and was accused of making rules to suit their interests.

When condominiums are the only option for home ownership in the $40,000- to $60,000-price range, we are heading for trouble as a society. Homeowner associations are no replacement for common decency and respect for your fellow neighbors, qualities that are necessary when you are living so close to each other.

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