As we know, Mother’s Day is all about family.  In a community association however, one person’s definition of “family” may differ with how their governing documents define “family.” The result may lead to certain people being allowed to have their “family” live with them in their condominium while their neighbor is prohibited from having their “family” live with them in the unit next door.  Sounds confusing?  We haven’t even started yet……


As evidenced in the news this past week, there is certainly an on-going debate as to what type of relationships will be classified as “familial” relationships by each state.  Believe it or not, the debate doesn’t end at the entrance to the condominium, but instead only heats up once inside.  As our readers know, the governing documents in many community associations only allow the units to be used by the owners and members of their “immediate family” or require the unit to be occupied solely “as a single family residence.”  Associations have routinely filed suits seeking to enforce these provisions of the governing documents in a manner that would restrict occupancy to the more traditional definitions of “family” but have often times been unsuccessful.  Let’s review a couple of scenarios:


Arbitration Case 1993:   A unit owner allowed his wife’s niece to reside in the unit while the unit owner was away.  The Association argued that the niece was a “guest” —– but the owner said that she was “a member of his family” and did not have to get approved.  Arbitrator held that a single family are people related by blood or marriage living and cooking together as a single family.  Since the unit owner did not reside with the niece they were guests and not a single family.  


So in this case – according to the arbitrator, you have to be related by blood or marriage and must live together at the same time to be considered family.


Arbitration case in 1993: The term family is now one of greater flexibility.  Two males living together does not violate the provisions of the declaration limiting use as a “single family residence.”  The arbitrator held that since they were living together and  sharing expenses, that alone made them a family.

Like I said.  The debate continues.

Another arbitration case in 1994: although an owner considered the person occupying the unit “to be like a son to her,”   the occupant, who was also helping to pay bills,  was a “tenant” and not a family member and therefore the single family residence rule was violated.  

Interesting to note that 2 men sharing expenses were considered a “family” but a younger  man and  an older woman were not, even though they both were contributing toward household expenses.

Another 1994 arbitration case – Elderly unit owners adult daughter and husband who co-occupied the unit with the owner were not “tenants” or “guests” under the single family restriction because they all occupied the unit as a single housekeeping unit even though the unit owners resided in the unit on a seasonal basis while the daughter and husband resided there year round.

Whatever your definition of family is…………..I wish you and yours only health and happiness.  Now I know that may not be possible in your condo or HOA but I’ll wish it anyway.

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