Condo Owners vs Condo Renters: When Renters Rule the Roost

Rights Condo owners vs condo renters. Condo owners are quickly becoming second-class citizens vs condo renters nation-wide. Why condo renters rule with Dr. Joyce Starr. Show Date: August 5, 2010.

Renters are rarely evicted for disturbing their neighbors, can’t be fined and can generally do whatever they want without consequence.

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The absent owner can be fined, but it’s typically too much trouble for condo boards and managers to go after out-of-state owners for the bad deeds of their renters. Further, fearing the owner might dump the unit if they don’t receive their monthly rent, condo boards don’t want to rock the renter out of his/her comfee boat.

The net result: noisy, inconsiderate tenants. In one local condo, half of the penthouse floor is populated by renters, not owners. The next floor down is even worse. Owners below complain of ear-shattering music, moving of heavy objects at all hours of the night, boisterous balcony parties and secondhand smoke snaking through the corridors and central air-conditioning systems.

But complaints to management and/or condo boards fall on deaf ears. “The tenant said he wasn’t doing a thing” is a common retort. So the tenant said? Owners are treated as if they’re living in an imaginary world. The tenant is rarely wrong. The unit owner is seldom right.

Yes, renters are screened before being allowed to move in. But there is no way to determine in advance who will behave like an insensitive clod or bully. Prospective renters cannot be legally denied the right to lease based on personality. Tenants are also infrequently advised of good neighbor policies and practices.

In one case, a renter ran a cooking and food catering service out of her small kitchen – dumping pounds of hot grease down the kitchen sink weekly. Board members knew the renter was running a catering business, but didn’t intervene. A year later, a kitchen pipe full of her gunk exploded, destroying at least two kitchens in units below. By then, the unit had been sold, the renter was gone, and there was nothing the Association could do.

I wrote a book called Secondhand Smoke Crimes – When Neighbors Poison You, Your Family & Pets. The neighbor featured in the book – based on a true story – is a renter. His smoke permeates the living room of one owner and the kitchen of another. You can smell the disgusting tars in her kitchen cabinets, drawers and even in her dishwasher. Visitors to the corridor are overcome by the foul odor. Young girls and babies living only few doors away inhale the renter’s habit daily.

Several California cities have declared secondhand smoke a toxic health hazard in multi-family homes – while smoking in public housing units is now forbidden. The renter’s lease is up for renewal in October. Yet the board prefers to hide its head in nicotine, rather than refuse to renew the lease.

Owners who pay their condo fees and assessments have no rights against this vile individual, short of hiring an attorney take the condo board and/or renter/owner to court – at enormous personal expense. Several owners in the building are also smokers, but take care to smoke on their balconies or outside the home.

Given the fact that millions of owners have lost their homes, one might assume that offensive renters are previously foreclosed owners. This doesn’t seem to be the case.

Prior owners tend to be considerate renters – and on average, in their upper 30s, 40s or older. Younger renters, especially those who have never owned a condo or home, are less likely to care. The bully smoker, however, is in his mid-60s and was not a victim of foreclosure. He’s simply a horrid individual.

The joy of owning a home is ruined when owners become the target of renter abuse – especially abuses that fall into gray areas. Excessive noise before 11:00 pm may not break a rule, but it can destroy the nerves and peaceful enjoyment of property of those below. Smoking may be permitted in individual units, but that shouldn’t give a renter the right to kill you. Moving a heavy object nightly while others sleep may not break a specific rule, but it can break the health of the owner below. Intentional sleep deprivation, as we know, is classified as torture.

Condo documents typically limit the number of renters to 10 percent of all units, but Board members often turn a blind eye. One board treasurer provided the bank with falsified rental numbers and then bragged about her misdeed to fellow unit owners.

If actions aren’t taken to curtail renter abuse, condo owners may literally become a dying breed. What’s the incentive for buyers if the building is effectively ruled by renters?

To the protection of your health, sanity and peaceful enjoyment of property.

Dr. Joyce Starr

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