How To Live in a Condominium or YOU'RE TELLING ME I CAN'T DO WHAT?
Living in a very small space is not easy...especially if you are a boomer moving from a 4 bedroom 4 bath house and 2500-3000 square feet to a much smaller condo unit. All you are doing is downsizing, right? I actually thought getting rid of the "stuff" would be the hardest part. Silly me...!
This is how it will go if you decided to do what we did. It will turn out that living in a building owned by everyone in your condo group from the paint out is very trying and it has nothing to do with all that stuff you have crammed in the garage that needs to be given away. What you are about to face after owning a home that you could paint and hang things on, is a life with no control. There are rules, lots of rules. A condo association can make your life very miserable. If the officers of the association administer the CCandRs as a document written in blood by someone that actually cared about how you would live in your condo, you will find that the rigidity of their view leaves you absolutely no room to breath. It is very difficult, at least for us, to see their point of view. If your association CCandRs are imported from California and adopted by the builder as ours were, you will find that the language may not apply to your situation. When our association was actually formed, none of us saw the implication for using this document. We did not take the time to dissect the forms before we signed off on them. It was an error on our part.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN
Let's say you have just moved in and you love those beautiful hanging baskets. They sell them at our local farmers market on Sunday. You buy one and want to hang it outside on the deck. Can you do that? NO, not without written, documented official permission which you probably won't get. We are not even allowed to put a hanger that fits over the railing and does not require screws.
Or you want to put a flag hanger on your unit so you can display decorative flag or even the United States Flag but the association will not let you drill a hole in the wood trim because the CC&Rs forgot to provide for this. What can you do if the people on the association do not interpret the rules to allow for any of these things? Even the law of the United States says that you should be able to do this. In fact neither one of these things are allowed. Damage that could be caused by any one of these things will cost everyone. That is the facts of condo life. We came to understand the reason for these rules.
What if you have always loved to garden and want to fritter in your flower bed but the association sends people around to inspect and then puts plants in front of sprinklers in unbalanced arrangements that makes your investment look shoddy? Remember you do not get to tell them what to do and you cannot move the plants. What if the landscape service is competent but not interested and you are not encouraged to take ownership in the common property? It can happen. The simple fact is that the planter bed does not belong to you but to everyone. What you do affects the value of every one's property. We have learned who to call to get part of these problems addressed.
When the windows on your unit need replacing, and they will, the association will tell you what you can put in and you will pay for it. You will also pay extra if the money for a new roof or repainting is not in you association bank account. It can amount to thousands of dollars.
The list of no-nos goes on and on. Screen doors, flags on the buildings, planter boxes, garbage can placement, exterior light replacement, and fixture cleaning...these are just a few of the things that have been a problem or controversy. In our case, even the placement of a mail box for a handicapped resident was ordered removed at the owners expense. The hoops you need to jump through are many and very, very real! We have learned to pay close attention to procedures and the needed steps to get things done
IN THE END...
It has taken us almost 10 years to get used to this type of living. We made the move so we could travel without worrying about over grown lawns and exterior issues. In our case we got a lot more than we bargained for. So just keep in mind...a condo is not an apartment. The manager will not come and fix stuff. They do not wash windows or sweep the sidewalk. A management company has you by the throat and will call/email or fine you for "being naughty"! We have not been fined but we are not dead yet! I expect that we will be before this is all over. But we are learning and in the end we have fallen in love with our condo again. As we have gotten to know our neighbors and management company employees the process has become easier. The benefits outweigh the problems. We are totally at home. Finally!
Have a great day.