Q&A: Who Owns the Floor?

Q. I’ve lived in an upper-floor condo for 10 years; the building is 14 years old. The board is now making a rule that we can only have hard flooring in the kitchen, the bathrooms, and the laundry room. I cannot find in the master deed or bylaws where this was ever addressed. There are upper units that have installed hard flooring in the past 14 years. Does the board own the flooring in my condo? Do they have authority to make this rule?

                               —Caught Unaware

A. “No actual legal advice can be given – especially with respect to the contents and/or applicability of the condominium’s master deed and bylaws – without a thorough review of important documents such as the master deed and bylaws,” says attorney David Byrne of the firm Ansell Grimm & Aaron, which has locations throughout New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.  “Generally speaking, however, a condominium does not ‘own’ a unit’s flooring.  In fact, a New Jersey condominium neither owns any part of a unit nor any part of the common elements.   Generally, the ‘floor’ in a unit is included within the definition of ‘unit.’  Generally, a condominium may very well have the authority to regulate the type of flooring that exists in a unit.  The condominium’s ability to do it lawfully generally depends upon  a variety of factors, aside from the contents of that condominium’s master deed and bylaws.  Those factors include the board’s compliance with New Jersey’s Condominium Act in regards to how the rule was adopted; the process used by the board to notice and carry out the board meeting at which the rule was adopted; and whether the circumstances are such that the condominium’s alternative dispute resolution should have been made available.  Lastly, the condominium’s powers regarding this flooring may also be dependent upon any prior rules, agreements and/or promises made to you regarding the nature of your unit’s flooring.”

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