Question. The house rules of our Condominium state that the swimming pool hours are 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Can we, in effect, be locked out of the use of the pool before 10:00 in the morning? We have no lifeguard, so we swim at our risk at all times. If I request a key to the pool, is the Condominium Association obligated 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.
Answer. Condominium living, as this column has reported on numerous occasions, is group living at its best -- and at its worst. When you purchased the condominium you knew (or should have known) that you have to follow the rules and regulations of the Condominium. These include the basic Declaration creating the Condominium, the Bylaws, and any house rules adopted by the Board of Directors.
House rules do not please everyone, and indeed are the source of considerable litigation in the condominium law arena. These rules cover such matters as the use of swimming pools, keeping of pets, and the care and upkeep of the common grounds -- legally called common elements.
In any democracy, you have the opportunity to change the rules, if you can get sufficient votes to support your position.
There probably is 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 are probably concerns about the safety of children who might be playing in and around the pool too early in the morning -- or late in the evening.
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 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 in 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 condominium law field and is certainly worth pursuing.
This of course highlights one of the most important aspects of condominium living.
It is imperative that any condominium owner take an active role in the functions and activities of the Condominium. Numerous committees must be maintained, dealing with such areas 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 of 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 will survive only with the active participation -- and involvement -- of all of its owners.