As many condominium association boards know, hard surface flooring is a popular trend and homeowner demands for its installation are increasing. Benefits of hard surface flooring include its hypoallergenic properties and its durability, and some homeowners simply prefer its aesthetics. In view of this, associations need to consider the following important factors when dealing with hard surface flooring requests or issues.
1. What Do the Governing Documents State? First and foremost, association boards need to review and be familiar with their CC&Rs provisions related to hard surface flooring. Review the architectural section to determine whether hard surface flooring is even subject to architectural review and approval. For example, some CC&Rs allow an owner to install improvements such as hard surface flooring inside the airspace of a unit as long as the common area structural components are unaffected. If the CC&Rs do not subject hard surface flooring to architectural review, then an owner may proceed with installation (subject to the provision referenced in Item 3, Nuisance, below*). Associations should also review the prohibited use section of the CC&Rs. Sometimes this section prohibits hard surface flooring entirely and sometimes only in certain circumstances (e.g., it is permitted for homes located on the first floor but not for upper floors of a building). The rules and regulations of an association should be consistent with the authority granted by the CC&Rs. If the CC&Rs do not enable an association to regulate hard surface flooring, then it can only do so through the enforcement of a nuisance provision (see Item 3, Nuisance, below*). An association may be successfully challenged in court if it imposes standards beyond the authority granted by the CC&Rs.
2. Establish Consistent Flooring Standards. Putting members on notice of hard surface flooring standards is key to minimizing future architectural and nuisance disputes. Such standards allow owners to plan ahead and avoid costly mistakes. This also allows the association to act consistently and avoid claims of selective enforcement or special treatment in regard to architectural applications or owner violations. These standards should be in either the CC&Rs of an association or its rules and regulations, such as the architectural guidelines section.