Posted on February 23, 2015by Rachael Harrington
Living within a condominium complex has its benefits and disadvantages.
One of the benefits includes an association that generally cares for and
maintains the landscape, roofing, and other common areas. One particular
disadvantage, however, is the noise that can result from high density
living spaces with shared walls, floors, and ceilings. People are, of
course, inherently different and enjoy different things that may or may
not create more noise than desired by others.
For example, some residents have an innate love for plush carpeting, while
others couldn't live without hardwood floors. Does it really make
a difference as long as you have the flooring you desire in your own living
space? Add to the mix a pair of stiletto heels or a clumsy individual
who has a horrible habit of dropping everything he or she comes into contact
with and yes, it will make a difference.
Whatever the reason is for your love of hardwood floors, the neighbor that
lives below you will thank you if you include area rugs in your interior
design plan, as well as invest in slippers! Hardwood floors can cause
much more noise than carpeting. In fact, associations may have specific
CC&R provisions addressing the type of flooring that can be installed,
and the good news is that these provisions, within reason, are enforceable.
Ryland Mews Homeowners Association found itself in this exact dispute.
Ruben Munoz, the homeowner residing on the second story, installed hardwood floors.1 His wife had severe allergies and could not live with carpet2. Mr. Munoz, however, did not seek approval from the association for his
flooring decision.3 The neighbors that shared their ceiling with Mr. Munoz's floors were
inundated with noise that they considered "'greatly amplified'
The CC&Rs for this association specifically restricted homeowners from
altering units in "any manner that would increase sound transmission
to any adjoining or other Unit, including, but not limited to, the replacement
or modification of any flooring or floor covering that increases sound
transmission to any lower Unit.'"5 Written approval from the association was also required before modifying
or replacing flooring if the new flooring could result in increased noise.6 The CC&Rs also spelled out - as CC&Rs tend to do! - that homeowners
could not cause a nuisance.7
A California Court of Appeal determined the flooring caused a "'great
nuisance'" to the neighbors.8 Rather than force the immediate removal and replacement of the flooring,
the court was fair and required area rugs to be utilized until the association
design review committee could agree on plans to modify the flooring so
that it conformed with the CC&Rs.
Living in a condominium complex requires a balancing of interests and compromise
as exemplified in the Ryland Mews Homeowners Assn. v. Munoz case. This
case does not ban hardwood flooring; however, it does allow associations
to have restrictions on flooring that could cause a nuisance, which is
beneficial for associations and homeowners. Associations, within reason,
have more authority to control the interior of a unit in order to provide
for every homeowner's quiet enjoyment of his or her home.