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Real Estate Matters | Owner should seek less costly resolution of condo dispute

I live in a small condominium complex with six main-level units and six upper units. Some of the owners in our building installed hardwood flooring in their units to make them more marketable. Our condominium documents specifically state that carpet and pad are the only flooring allowed.

Many of the units are in violation of the condominium documents. We had our association file a notice of non-compliance with the city and county to be on record. I was told by our condominium president that the notice would come up when the title company performed its search of the title to the condominiums and that money would be placed in escrow to rectify the problems. After that, the old owner or the new buyer would have to bring the unit into compliance.

One of the units sold more than a year ago. According to the title company, the buyer was told that our homeowner association documents were outdated and nothing would come of it. Now, everyone is refusing to talk.

Do you know who is at fault for letting this slip by? I had three general contractors price removing and lowering my ceilings to install soundproofing. The bids averaged $79,000. Apparently, the statute of limitations for the board to do anything lapsed this past summer. What should I do?

It’s somewhat of a common practice in certain condominium buildings to require homeowners to install carpeting in their units to mitigate sound issues between units. In some cases where homeowners want to install wood flooring in their units, the same condominium documents would require the homeowners to install a layer of sound buffering material over the floor and then install the wood flooring over that material.

The real issue is what your condominium documents state and what the penalties are for a unit owner’s failure to comply with the condominium documents.

What is strange to us is that you would wait several years and live with this issue thinking that it would go away. You knew the issue existed and that it violated the condominium regulations, and you thought that the filing of the “notice” would take care of the issue.

We wonder what you would have done if your neighbors upstairs never sold and remained your neighbors upstairs for years to come. Did you have a noise problem with your old upstairs neighbors? Or, do you now have a noise issue with your new neighbors?

Soundproofing from below seems to be quite expensive and may be more expensive than installing a new floor in the unit above you with newer methods and materials that would minimize the sound transmission from upstairs to your unit.

Having said all that, the real issue is to determine what rights you and the association may have against those unit owners who have violated the condominium documents.

You or the association may need to hire an attorney to review the condominium documents and the events that have occurred to determine where things stand. Once you have this information, you can make a decision on what to do. For example, the notice that was placed on the units may not have done much. Usually notices placed on condominium units are for money owed to the association, and if the association doesn’t take action on amounts owed, the notice may not be effective thereafter.

Your condominium documents may give the association specific legal rights. The association can fine the unit owner in violation of the condominium documents, and if the homeowner fails to pay the fine, the association can foreclose on the unit to enforce the amount owed. Whether the association has waived any rights against any of the old unit owners or new ones and the units themselves may be a question that will be researched by any attorney the association decides to hire.

If the association still can take action against the owners of the units in question, they may be willing to reinstall their floors to minimize sound problems.

However, before you go down the warpath, we recommend that you research this issue further. Perhaps you should hire an attorney to look into this matter for you but limit the attorney to a small budget to give you preliminary information. Contact the owner that lives above you and see if that owner is willing to do anything to reduce the sound problem. In addition, finally, determine how bad the sound transmission is from the unit above you to your unit.

You and your neighbor might find a solution to the problem that is substantially less costly than lowering your entire ceiling or bringing a lawsuit against your property.

Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In!” If you have questions, you can call her radio show toll-free (800-972-8255) any Sunday, from 11a.m. to 1 p.m. EST. Contact Ilyce through her website,