Reader Questions - A Washout On Laundries?Dec 26, 2016
Our HOA prohibits washers/dryers in upstairs units. When this rule was adopted, owners who already had washer/dryers were allowed to keep them but no more would be allowed. When the unit is sold, can the new owner keep the washer/dryer? Does the grandfather rule stay in place for new owners? One new owner had a unit that did not have a washer/dryer but the plumbing/electrical setup for it was there and he received permission to install a new appliance. Other new owners were not asked to remove them. The board is now considering prohibiting washers/dryers from remaining in place when units are sold. Is this legal?
Dear Mr. Richardson,
The HOA demanded owners with washers to remove them and return the plumbing to original condition. Some washers are connected to bathroom sinks, and those owners propose to move the washer drain pipe to the tub drain to comply with city code. No HOA document prohibits installing a washer. Can the HOA demand unit inspections to confirm a washer was removed? Can the HOA prohibit moving the pipe to comply with city code? The HOA wrote an owner will be subject to a $500 fine if the washer is not removed. Can that be enforced without that fine written in any document?
T.H., San Diego
Dear B.H. and T. H.,
Some buildings were constructed with plumbing which cannot handle the load of clothes washers. Since the units are not designed for washing machines, there may be no safe place to install them with a proper drain and overflow.
Caution and restraint should be considered before passing a rule (by board vote) or CC&Rs use restriction (by member vote) which immediately creates a group of violators. Unless the matter involves a present danger or nuisance, associations may wish to “grandfather”” existing violators for some period of time, or delay implementation of the new standard, to give members a chance to bring their units into compliance.
However, if there is no written rule or use restriction, then there is no ban on the items. Similarly, a board cannot pick any fine it deems appropriate – the fine must be based upon a written “schedule of fines,” per Civil 5950(c), and the association may not impose a fine in excess of that.
T.H., if your association has no written ban on washing machines, how does it justify prohibiting them? Moving the pipes to comply with building codes, if those pipes are inside the walls, may be a common area alteration. Alterations of common area can and should be regulated by the association. However, if the alteration does not harm the building and remedies a building code violation, why would the board want to deny it (assuming the contractor is licensed and insured)?
The association right to inspect units is whatever is stated in the CC&Rs, or as may be granted by a court. If the CC&Rs are silent, is the issue so important that the HOA would file a suit and seek a court order? Hopefully not, unless the issue presented a danger of some kind.
When adopting a new restriction or ban, the board should seek qualified advice from an expert; create a sensible rule; consider the community impact; and enforce the rule consistently.
Thanks for your questions,
Written by Kelly G. Richardson
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to [email protected]. Past columns at www.hoahomefront.com. All rights reserved®.