Summary: I didn't get approval for the installation of new laminate floors and now the board/HOA won't approve my flooring request even though the padding I have is much quieter than what they require. Now they're fining me and threatening potential legal action.
Long version: I own a property in California and have been renting it out for about 5 years. After my last tenant moved out, I decided to install laminate floors and used one of the top rated companies in my area - paid about $6,500 and the new floors look great!
On the first day of construction, my HOA e-mailed me and said I needed to stop work immediately since I didn't get approval for the new floors. So the next day, I submitted a flooring form and after a couple days, the board got back to me denying my request. They said that the material I wanted to use was tested on a concrete slab and not the wood joint system that the building is built on.
At this point, the floors were already basically done since I had a new tenant coming in within a few days. The architectural application form says that the floors must produce an IIC rating of at least 55 decibels. The flooring I installed was tested and produced a rating of 75 decibels, which is much quieter than what's required.
Now the HOA/board has fined me $100 so far and says that I face continued fines and potential legal action. Obviously I'd prefer not to continue getting fined and/or get sued but I also feel like that I am in the right.
What should I do? I should have done the application ahead of time so I feel the first fine is warranted for that, but does a condo board have arbitrary power to deny requests like this? This is my unit after all and since I went above/beyond to use padding that is very quiet, I don't see why the board can deny this request. The new floors also increase the value of my unit and benefit the other owners in general too.
So what should I do?
PS - Yes I know I should have gotten approval first for the floors but you can see why I didn't want to do it in the first place. Going forward though, I've learned my lesson (despite what will happen) and will succumb to all of the inane HOA rules in the future. But I will never buy in an HOA again if I can help it.
@Jared Campbell yes, ok you know that was wrong, move on.....lol
I would contact an attorney in your area that specializes in HOA/Condo management issues. They may be able to get this satisfied and moved on.
Can you also get a flooring specialist (or several) that will put in writing the specs?
Tough situation. HOA and condo boards can be your worst nightmare. It would be a real PITA not to mention loss of money to rip out the new floors. I would take another's advice and call an attorney soon. I would provide them the necessary docs and give them as much help as possible to try and keep your legal bills to a minimum. Good luck finding an honest one that doesn't try to take your last dime! After all, they are out for JUST US---oops..justice:)
Yes, HOA board has a huge power.
You don't want to piss them off.
They can continue fine you until they are satisfied with the solution.
I read real stories online that, an owner hire an attorney to sue his HOA. The owner wins, but the HOA find all different ways to give weekly fine to the owner the next 4 to 6 years.
Examples of the fines are tenant's noise, tenant's guest extra pet etc.
The owner regret that he didn't sell it 4 to 6 years earlier.
Too bad that looks like there not much regulations on HOA board if you try to research it in online...
That meant they can be very powerful...
When situations happen like this, try to talk to the boards nicely, and find a solution that the board would accept, then sell it asap after this case is settled.
Please do not immediately lawyer up. I own 2 condo properties and am on the board of one of the HOAs. The board members are human beings, not irrational monsters. Their primary concern is protecting the value of their homes. Go to the next board meeting, hat in hand, and explain your honest mistake. Be apologetic. Bring a sample of the material used. Explain how this improvement adds to the home value and brings in higher quality tenant, which is good for everyone in the community. It is much harder to draw a hard line with a humble, apologetic person standing in front of you than with a threatening letter on legal stationary.
While you feel it is "your unit", that is really not correct. You agreed to abide by the CC&Rs of the community when you bought and you have very little recourse if they choose strict enforcement.
One final note, be mindful when screening your tenants. I'm guessing this is not a targeted attack on you. However, if you bring in tenants who cause a nuisance, disturb neighbors, or simple don't conform to the general profile of the community (if it is all young professionals and they are 4 college kids sleeping two to a room, etc), you will receive less leniency from the board. They will perceive that you are adversely affecting quality of life in the community and dragging property values down. Bring in quality tenants and a good attitude, and they will most likely work with you.
As others said, try to reason with the Board, continue pointing out that new flooring is actually quieter than what's required, and try to get flooring specialists to back you up. Also try talking with other owners in the community. They might be willing to sign a petition against their unreasonableness. Another option is to run for the Board yourself, or encourage and campaign for a like-minded owner to do so.
Negotiate with them calmly and with respect.Tell them you are sorry that you did not follow standard procedures for approval of work to be done and will be careful not to do it in the future.Offer to pay a one time penalty of say $1,000 dollars (which is way,way cheaper than the potential $5k to 10k you will shell out to a lawyer and court fees.Show some remorse and ask what you can do to demonstrate good faith and they might let you skate by without having to destroy the work you have already done.
What do the HOA covenants say about flooring? Do they hold ultimate authority on what can and cannot be installed? If so, it won't matter what decibels you can provide, they are unhappy with you and might try proving a point.
I would do as others state, approach them apologetic and providing documents that the material is a good product adding value.
Do they allow laminate floors at all?
Personally I would ask if you could just carpet over it and be done with it
Of laminate over it with what they approve
A good lesson learned. Expensive but in the scheme of all things well worth it
@Jared Campbell Read the rule book you should have received from the HOA when you first bought the property. From there, build your case. Approach the board with your points in writing and talk to them nicely. As others have mentioned, see if you can come to an agreement. For the future, you may want to consider selling if there are more issues down the road. Good luck!
Thanks for the replies everyone.
So I think I'm going to try and get this resolved and basically say, 'sorry i messed up, i'm a great owner though, here's how this would add value to everyone, please approve my request'. If that doesn't work, I may even offer to pay a fine of say $1,000.
I think you guys are right too, legal action is probably the last thing I would want to do. But I think if they still won't approve me, I'll send a letter to everyone in the community (100+ units), explaining the situation and see if anyone else has had issues, or if we can apply pressure to the board. Or maybe someone else even would be willing to run for President.
Last option would be to hire a lawyer.
I really don't want to sell as this property is cash flowing $500+/mo right now and value has gone up around 30-40% since I purchased in 2009.