Sometimes condominium units become “home” to people who really don’t belong there. With the proliferation of “over-55” communities in recent years, aging baby boomers and an economy marked by unemployment and foreclosures, there may be relatives, friends or employees moving in who are prohibited by condo docs or even local bylaws or health codes.
Infractions are on the upswing, but the managers and trustees who have to deal with these situations report that they’re reacting cautiously. Experts warn that fair housing and anti-discrimination laws may trump a condo’s bylaws.
Attorney Frank Lombardi, a partner in the Rhode Island office of Goodman, Shapiro & Lombardi, LLC, explains how the regulations are spelled out in most over-55 condo communities. At least one person living in the unit must be over 55, even if it’s not the owner [on the deed]. “When a [condo] unit is conveyed to tenants, at least one tenant must be over 55…,” he notes. “Any residents left who are under 55 would have to vacate. However… there is always discretion. I had a ‘senior’ community where a husband had died and his widow was under 55. The trustees allowed her to stay, although she eventually sold the unit.”
“We had another situation,” Lombardi continues, “where an elderly couple had left their over-55 unit [for a nursing home] although they were still the owners on the deed. Their adult son was living in the unit, against regulations. Neighbors were not happy with his partying lifestyle, so in this case, the board used the nuisance provisions in the condo docs to get him out [of the unit].
“And what about a sudden influx of kids? They might leave toys and bikes outside, or chalk all over the pavement. You can look at the nuisance provisions in the docs, but the board has to decide how and when it’s reasonable to charge fines for noise or defacing common elements. There has to be an accommodation.”