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Condo Q&A

In Association's Eyes, Your Condo Isn't Your Castle

April 12, 1998|JAN HICKENBOTTOM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Hickenbottom is a community association management consultant and a founding director of the California Assn. of Community Managers

QUESTION: I own a condominium unit that is listed for sale. The prospective buyer wants to install a washer and dryer; however, an amendment to the declaration prohibits washers and dryers within the units.

The amendment was made because the association did not want owners putting in additional drain connections in the common area plumbing.

I suggested that the washer and dryer could be installed next to the kitchen sink and the washer drain hose could drain into the sink. The dryer could be vented to the balcony. My unit is on the second floor and there is only one unit above nine.

Can the association prohibit owners from draining the waste water from the washer into the kitchen sink and installing a dryer vent on the balcony?

ANSWER: Yes, the association can prevent you from doing anything that is prohibited in the covenants, conditions and regulations and its amendments.

Your ownership of the unit does not give you or your buyer the right to do whatever you please within the unit. When there are valid reasons for restrictions within the unit, the association has the right to exercise control.

When you own property in a community association, you give up some self-determination that you would have in a single-family dwelling.

I can think of several reasons the association would not approve your plumbing idea.

If the original plumbing was not designed to handle waste water from washers, washers should not be allowed.

Washers send a sudden high volume of water down the drain lines, and the buildup of suds combined with the volume of water can cause backup in the lines.

A washer installed in the manner that you suggest could result in damage to your unit and the one below you. Your kitchen drain line is not designed for the high volume of water.

Even if you could get the permits from the city building department to install the dryer vent, the association has the right to prohibit it because you would be venting the dryer through the exterior wall of the building.

The exterior wall is a common area and the association has the right to control or prevent any changes to a common area.

If the association turns down your request, do not defy their decision. Besides the enforcement power of the association, any unit owner who disagreed with your washer and dryer installation could file legal action to uphold the covenants.

Balcony Storage May Be Regulated

Q: Our association's rules and regulations state that only patio furniture and plants are allowed on the balconies. I have been keeping my bicycle on the balcony and I have been cited for violations. I feel that since it is my balcony, I can put anything I want on it. Is this rule legal?

A: The way you have stated the rule, it seems that even people are prohibited from using the balcony, though I presume that is not the case.

The association can prohibit the storage of articles on balconies, though it is reasonable that the rules allow patio furniture and plants.

I have seen a balcony where the owner had so many boxes and so much lumber stored that rainwater could not drain out. Then the owner complained to the association that water came over the balcony door frame and damaged his expensive carpet.

He expected the association or its insurance carrier to pay for the damage. In this situation, the owner had created a water damage risk and a fire risk.

On another occasion, a roll of carpet was stored on a balcony. Rats had climbed up the vines on the exterior wall and were living in the rolled carpet. Some owners clutter their balconies with so much junk that the neighbors are embarrassed to look at it.

These examples are just some of the reasons that associations adopt rules that state what can and cannot be stored on the balconies. Rules are usually adopted for reasonable purposes that we fail to see if we disagree with the rule.

Perhaps your neighbors have complained about your bicycle being on your balcony or being brought through the common halls. Have your dirty wheels caused damage to the carpet?

Communicate with your association board to see if a better storage place is available. Boards can make exceptions to the rules if there is justification. If the balcony is the only safe place for your bicycle and if your neighbors who can see it are agreeable, the board may consider granting you the right to store your bicycle on your balcony.

Providing Delinquency Information Is Risky

Q: We own two condo units. One of them is in California and the other is in another state. The bookkeeper for the out-of-state association sends a quarterly financial report that includes the assessment payments from all of the owners.

We would like our association in California to provide the same information, but the board of directors refuses to provide it. Is there some basis for the board's withholding delinquency information?

A: Most boards wisely refrain from giving out delinquency information so they can protect the privacy of the delinquent owners.

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