Q. The house rules of our condominium state that the swimming pool hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Can we, in effect, be locked out of use of the pool before 10 in the morning? We have no lifeguard, so we swim at our risk at all times. If I request a key for use of the pool other than the pool hours, is the condominium association obliged to give me the key or open the pool for me? After all, we are part owners of the common elements, which include the swimming pool.
A: Condominium living, as has often been said in this column, is group living at its best - and at its worst. When you purchased the condominium, you knew (or should have known) that you would have to follow the rules and regulations of the condominium, and these include the basic declaration creating the condominium, the by-laws, and any house rules adopted by the association.
House rules do not please everyone. These rules cover such areas as use of the swimming pool, keeping of pets, maintenance of the parking lot, and the care and upkeep of the common grounds - legally referred to as the common elements. Obviously, not everyone will be pleased with the house rules. But like any other democracy, you have the opportunity to change these rules, if you can muster enough votes to support your position.
There may have been a valid reason for writing the house rule dealing with the swimming pool. Some neighbors who live near the pool may object to the noise before a reasonable hour in the morning. There may have been concerns about safety for children who would be playing in and around the swimming pool too early in the morning.
One the other hand, the particular concerns of your condominium should be carefully analyzed. If there is no valid reason for these restrictions, you have every right to change the rules, providing, of course, that a majority of the unit owners agree with you.
Mount a campaign to change the rules. Contact all of the other unit owners, and propose an appropriate rule change to the association president. Most condominium associations provide a mechanism for presenting rule changes to the association, at least once ayear at the annual membership meeting.
You should also inquire as to when and how these rules were promulgated. If they were established by the condominium board or the association manager, without the proper vote required by the by-laws, there may be grounds for challenging the validity of these rules. This is a developing area in the law of condominiums, and certainly is worth your pursuing.
This, of course, highlights one of the most important aspects of condominium living.
It is absolutely important for any condominium owner to take an active role in the daily functions of the condominium. There are numerous committees that must be maintained dealing with such areas as budget, upkeep of the building and grounds and safety. The condominium and its association is governed by a board of directors - who need the guidance of all of the unit owners.
A small cabal within the condominium should not be permitted to dictate its wishes to the entire association. And yet, the way most condominium documents are structured, voting depends on the number of members present at any particular vote - and thus, it is important for everyone to participate and vote.
Like any other democracy, the condominium will only survive with the active participation of all of the owners.