What happens when there are too many people in the building? All of a sudden, the parking spot that you have been using for years is suddenly being taken, and there is a proliferation of unknown people ambling around the halls. You may here babies late at night where there was once silence.
Who is to blame? You may wonder what has happened, but in all likelihood, your neighbors have their extended family in without asking the condo association. What recourse do you have?
There are several reasons to explain the sudden increase in your community’s population. Certainly the most obvious is because of unemployment or hardship. However, they may be there because of an unforeseen illness or life circumstance.
If an adult child moves in, then it’s usually not anyone else’s business. However, if the condo is playing host to more than the maximum allowable occupancy level, then it is time to involve the building management or the HOA administrators.
Overcrowding is not only annoying and inconvenient for existing residents, it also poses health and safety risks for the community. Often times, unknown strangers living in an HOA can cause a security threat, as accountability for the newfound residents can be hard to come by.
Florida is still recovering from the economic crash of 2008, especially since the housing market hasn’t fully recovered. As a result, many communities are seeing an increased number of extended families living together, largely due to economic reasons, says Lisa Magill, a shareholder with Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale.
Occupancy limits are created to comply with municipal codes and to accommodate the needs of the rental community. Municipal laws generally state that no more than two people can live in a one-bedroom apartment, and no more than four people can live in a two-bedroom apartment; i.e., two people per bedroom.
In communities where everyone knows each other, adding strangers to the mix can cause tension and strain to the social fabric. For instance, if a long-term “guest” parks in a spot reserved for an infirm resident who needed that spot because it was next to her apartment, then complications will arise.
Other examples are items such as community shared expenses, such as water. If an apartment with too many people are taking an inordinate amount of showers, then it is reasonable to assume that other residents will become upset that they are footing the bill.
Unsanitary conditions tend to proliferate when there are more people in a unit than the space can accommodate. Having a high density of people in a unit can lead to an unacceptably dirty unit, where dust, bags of refuse or strange smells can diffuse into the rest of the building. Having too much stuff in a unit can be a fire hazard.
Getting Them Out
How do you spot a violator, and enforce the community restrictions? Get management involved. Depending on the governing documents of the association, the manager may be able to cite the offending unit owner for having too many people living in the unit, or for having undocumented guests.
“It is best to make a neutral inquiry before assuming the worst,” says Jonathan Louis, CEO of American Management Group. “If there is a hardship, typically an association won’t take action, or might grant a temporary variance.”
When the association is sending a violation letter, it is helpful to suggest viable alternatives for the occupants, including units that are available within the same community. “This is a great way to diffuse a difficult situation and increase revenue for the community,” Louis adds.
In a worst case scenario, when a resident refuses to comply with occupancy restrictions, legal action may be required. An association attorney can start eviction processes, or litigation.