Home owners associations that enforce strict rules on cloth diapers in thousands of public housing developments across the nation decry the regulations as necessary to stop flapping laundry from toppling property values. But in an era of plastic-over-paper, environmentally conscious individuals are increasingly chafing against regulations meant to protect the environment. Some homeowners associations have tried to impose a moratorium on using cloth diapers, but their requests have been met with heavy resistance by other residents.
One type of regulation that home owner’s associations often impose is a ban on using portable toilets known as “floating restrooms.” Many apartments, condominiums, and townhomes come equipped with one or more of these facilities. The homeowner association board that owns the building usually objects, arguing that the units are not permanent residences and that they cannot be made into permanent residences through the use of a bathroom sink. In this view, if the unit is used for temporary trips by tenants, then it is not a permanent residence. In other words, the bathroom sink is a floating home owner law that is designed to keep renters in their homes. And it is working!
But one board member living in a home near an “in site” floating bathroom told me recently, “My tenants are all too happy with this arrangement. They never use it, but it just looks nice.” She said she could not imagine her elderly tenants ever going back to the traditional toilet. Home owners association members also complain about the “nuisances” created by the “floating toilets,” which they define as excessive moisture and soil sucked up from the ground into the unit below.
Another regulation that home-owners association decries is the presence of marinas on the lake shore. I spoke with some local real estate brokers who have seen significant decreases in sales of homes in marinas along the lakeshore. The decrease in housing units is being driven by the decrease in marinas. Apparently, many owners want to use the space for vacation homes instead of permanently housing tenants.
On the other side of the debate are home owners who feel that the marina tenant should be protected under local ordinances. Some of these homeowners would like to see a regulation that says tenants are protected even if the landlord does not live in the unit. This way, if the marina is sold to an investor, the new tenant could sue the former landlord for not maintaining adequate living conditions. The new tenant would be able to sue the former landlord for all past due rent and rental fees plus all corresponding penalties.
Many jurisdictions have rules that allow tenants to stay in floating homes or rental moorages under certain conditions. For instance, in some jurisdictions tenants may be restricted from living more than six months in a rented garage. Also, some jurisdictions restrict tenants from living in their own unit or multiple units if they have filed an eviction suit against their former landlords. Also, some jurisdictions require landlords to give notice prior to renting the units out to future tenants. In the United States in particular, there is a limitation on how long the landlord can hold the space after the tenant has been evicted.
Home owners associations often fight these attempts at eviction by insisting that tenants have a right to quiet and peaceful living in a home. They claim that the courts are allowing these rights to override any zoning restrictions. However, the courts usually see this argument as a violation of tenants’ right to equal protection under the law.
Hopefully the issue of rental moorages and the laws surrounding them will not become so divisive that it causes the demise of homeowner association rules. It is interesting that many of the conflicts involve homeowners trying to control access to certain areas and the developers resisting that. That should be a cause for much concern to home renters who wish to have as much access to the neighborhood amenities as homeowners. Hopefully the issues can be resolved in time to avoid the possibility of serious rift in the relationship between developer and tenant.