P.L. from California writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We live in a building that is 4 stories. Our unit occupies stories 3 and 4. Our main living area and entrance into our home is on the 4th floor and our bedrooms are on the 3rd floor. Our downstairs neighbor has the flipped configuration – their entrance is on the 1st floor with bedrooms on the 2nd floor. We requested and received full architectural approval to replace our 4th floor floors from carpet to laminate. Part of architectural approval was requirement to add extra padding and sound proofing under the flooring which we added. We received approval from HOA and installed the floors only on the 4th floor area above our OWN bedrooms and 2 floors above our neighbors living space. All seemed fine. Fast forward 4 years later, we put our condo on the market to sell. All of a sudden, we first got a letter from our HOA that our laminate floors are installed without architectural approval. We provided a full letter of approval from the same HOA. Right after that we got a letter that neighbor is complaining about noise. (Our approval to install floors on our 4th floor was conditional pending any noise complaint). We went and talked to HOA manager and she said that we have to replace our floors back to carpet because of noise complaint. We then decided to go talk to the neighbor and see if we can resolve it. We swapped placed, his wife and my wife staying in their unit while the husband and I went to our unit.
We walked around the 4th floor (2 floors above their unit) and his wife and my wife agreed that they cannot hear anything. We then jumped around walked excessively loud, certainly not something that we would do all the time or ever, and they could hear barely audible muffled sound not from the ceiling but mainly through the wall, but you really, really had to be super quiet, like not breathing to even notice any muffled sound.
Then the truth came out – These owners are worried that what IF in the future someone moves into the unit when we sell that would like exercises and jump around on the 4th floor and that they would hear this muffled sound………
SO the question: Is it legally Ok for them to file a complaint against US for the future What If situation? Is HOA legally allowed to make us change our floors after they approved them and we spent the extra money to comply with all specs they required change our floors in the case of What If in the future? By the way, the person who complained is on the board? Does he have a leg to stand on? Does he have to excuse himself from any conversation or discussions with the board on this topic? How do we make sure he does not make other board members pre-judge this situation? What can we do to get this situation resolved? We want to sell and we think HOA will block our sale due to ‘existing complaint”?
Mister Condo replies:
P.L., you have kind of answered your own question here. The installation of your laminate floor was subject to terms, one of which is that if the downstairs neighbor complained of noise caused by the laminate floor, you would have to remove the floor and replace it with the original carpet. That was the condition of your approval. The downstairs neighbor has complained of noise so the approval is now revoked. You never had an unconditional approval, therefore, to seek one now puts you squarely behind the 8-ball so to speak. If I were you, I would certainly hire an attorney to see if there is any legal precedent here to allow you to keep your floor but I am afraid, based on what you have told me, as long as the complaint stands, you have no legal leg to stand on. If you were to have the downstairs neighbor remove the complaint, then there would be no reason or the Board to demand you remove your laminate flooring and replace with carpet. If you had asked me my opinion back when you first obtained this conditional approval, I would have told you that a conditional approval is no approval at all. You placed the fate of your flooring in someone else’s hands. That is never a good idea. Good luck!