Condo bylaws are designed to protect property values while minimizing issues and squabbles among owners. When you're buying a condo, don't forget you aren't buying a standalone home; it's as important to research the bylaws as it is to ensure condo living is right for you.
Condo residents can elect members to the board that sets community rules that all residents must abide by. Of course, this process doesn't always run smoothly - and for some of these owners, that's an understatement! Here are some of the craziest condo laws (here, and south of the border) that have ever been passed.
Every now and then homeowners' associations go too far in their quest to maintain the status quo. While it may be hard to imagine a garden with too many flowers, one man in Rancho Santa Fe, California learned the hard way when his homeowner's association (HOA) hit him with tens of thousands in gardening infractions. After paying more than $70,000 in legal expenses, the man lost his fight when the judge decided he violated the community's architecture design rules and he even lost his home - all due to an appreciation of rose bushes.
A Real Pane
A Toronto condo complex has a rule demanding only white window coverings - no beige, off-white, or any other neutral colour allowed. If non-white window coverings are put up and not removed within 48 hours, enforcement measures are taken to remove the window coverings. While this is certainly a bit extreme, the rule reportedly came about after someone taped newspaper to their windows then replaced it with trash bags when asked to remove it.
One homeowner's association in Texas restricts garage sales in the community to just two months per year: April and September. To make matters even more restrictive, community activities have a dress code. During garage sales, everyone must wear polos and khaki pants or face a $30 fine.
(No) Christmas Spirit
Condo boards can't tell you how to decorate inside your unit as long as it doesn't interfere with the safety or peace of others. Still, they can make rules governing common areas and anything visible from outside of your unit. One Canadian condo board banned Christmas decorations outside of unit doors, but a human rights tribunal stepped in as the rule violated the condo owner's freedom of religion.
The Right To Bare Arms. And Flagpoles.
One of the most famously crazy bylaws comes from a Virginia HOA that once demanded a 90-year-old WWII veteran Van Barfoot take down his unapproved flag pole. Barfoot, who had received a Medal of Honor for his service, received support from Congress members and even the Obama administration and emerged triumphant in his legal battle.
A shared laundry facility is a common amenity in condo buildings, but it can be a source of contention when neighbours can't get along or respect others' property. One Toronto condo board has attempted to regulate laundry room use, but they have arguably gone overboard: this association has created a fixed laundry room schedule in which each unit has just a two-hour slot each week to do laundry.
Carry Your Canine
It's definitely reasonable for condos to have rules regarding pets to protect everyone and avoid damage to common areas. Still, these rules can go too far. A senior woman living in a California condo building was fined $25 every time she walked her cocker spaniel through the lobby because she violated the bylaw that states a pet's feet must never touch common area floors. When her fines got too high for her to pay, she was forced to move.
Kids Welcome. Unless You Have More Than Two
A Florida family was famously kicked out of their condo by the HOA when the man's wife returned from the hospital with twins. The family already had a child, and the twins coming home exceeded the two-children-per-unit rule set by the association.
No Diving, No Diapers
While it's understandable that some prefer adult condo communities, an Ontario condo board faced hefty fines after it banned children in diapers in the community pool. A mother argued the rule discriminated against her and her child. The same building had only recently started allowing young families to move in as it was once a senior community. The board had planned on building a separate children's pool, but the idea was shelved when many of the senior residents complained about the cost.
In most cases, a basic two or three-page list of rules is created when developers first build a condominium. When a condo board is formed, responsibility for the community bylaws is handed over and the rules become the responsibility of the board. It is up to the board to amend the bylaws if they so choose without going overboard.
Fortunately, most condo bylaws are practical and easy to live with. If you're planning to buy a condo, you always have the opportunity to read the bylaws so you can choose a community in which you will be happy to live.
In case you're in the mood for a few extra laughs, here are more crazy condo bylaws that will make you appreciate the cohesive condo board you have.