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 own risk at all times.

If I request a key to the pool, is the condominium association obliged to give it to me or to 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 bylaws, and any house rules adopted by the association.

House rules do not please everyone, and indeed are the source of most litigation in the condominium law area. These rules cover such matters as use of the swimming pool, keeping of pets and the care and upkeep of the common grounds -- legally called common elements.

As in any other democracy, you have the opportunity to change the rules if you can muster enough votes to support your position.

There may have been a valid reason for the house rule about the swimming pool. Some neighbors who live near the pool may object to the noise before a reasonable hour in the morning. There may be concerns about the safety of children who might be playing in and around the pool too early in the morning.

On 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 try to change the rules, providing, of course, that a majority of the other owners agree with you.

Mount a campaign to change the rules. Contact all of the other owners and propose an appropriate rule change to the association president. Most condominium associations provide a mechanism for presenting rules and changes to the association at least once a year at the annual membership meeting. You also should 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 bylaws, or in violation of state law, there may be grounds for challenging the validity of these rules. This is a developing area in the law field of condominiums and certainly is worth pursuing.

This, of course, highlights one of the most important aspects of condominium living:

It is important for any condominium owner to take an active role in the functions and activities of the condominium. Numerous committees must be maintained, dealing with areas such as budget, safety and upkeep of the building and grounds. The condominium and its association are governed by a board of directors, which needs the guidance and support of all the owners.

A small cabal within the condominium should not be permitted to dictate to the entire association. The way most condominium documents are structured, voting depends on the number of members present for any particular vote. Thus, it is important for everyone to participate. The condominium can survive only with the active participation of all the members.