YouAreNotMyLawyerFilter: But I feel discriminated against as a mom.
June 29, 2016 7:50 AM   Subscribe

I believe my HOA and condo management are unfairly targeting families and children, are being disrespectful to our needs, discriminating based on disparate impact, and allowing one "squeaky wheel" to run the show. It is ruining our health and well-being. Please help me to find what the parents of our neighborhood need to say or do to get the board to listen.

I will try to be brief. I live in a town in VA where a LOT of families are moving in. Specifically I live in a condo where half the population started out as young singles in the 80s, and now, as they are dying or moving into retirement homes, is being filled with families with young children.

There is a lot of animosity towards the children, though not from everyone.

Please do not reply with "Fair Housing only applies to buying or renting and not to HOA rules and correspondence." I know this is not the case and I have seen it over and over and over again when trying to get more info. Also, I KNOW there are a lot of other far worse cases of discrimination out there, but this affects our lives and it needs to be fixed. And no, we couldn't afford a single family home outside of an HOA, as much as that is what I wanted.

Our condo management company seems to respond to every complaint from one particular neighbor who lives very close to me. It SEEMS they are not always talking with the board first, and just sending emails about cleaning up after chalk, not using chalk on the sidewalk because people track it into their homes, not riding bikes in the parking lot (which is a cul de sac and has nowhere else to ride as people pull their cars all the way up against a sidewalk, and letting kids ride on a sidewalk where there are older adults seems like a bad idea anyway), etc.

There are two MAJOR issues for me: 1. None of these are actually "regulations" listed in the condo rules, and 2. official emails have told us to take our kids to the park, which seems silly, but was really hurtful.

No one else is going to want to draw with chalk or ride their bikes in the lot. They are all written as "no resident" and not "child" but I really think that is because I made a stink about them saying "children who are not potty trained" at the pool when there could easily be incontinent adults at the pool.

There are a LOT of ways that I feel uncomfortable here. As parents we requested a meeting with the board and the people without kids who came spent a long time complaining about the noise our children make during the daytime. The lawyer and condo management did not speak up to shut that down, as I'm sure they would if people started complaining that they didn't like someone cooking or music being played during the day because they were a different race, etc. Pool hours were cut from what we were told when moving in from a reasonable afternoon time to a just before dinner time, extending into a way past bedtime, meaning to get my kids to the pool I need to skip making dinner. Few people use the pool without children, and those later hours rarely have a lot of people. I know this is a little thing, but when I addressed it with management, asking if maybe we could shift 2 hours once or twice a week I was told that the board wouldn't even consider it. Children had been playing in a tree, which seems to show no ill effects, but because that awful witch of a neighbor complained that it was killing the tree it is no longer allowed. We were given no proof that it was actually killing the tree, again, I was fine with this as a single incident, but taken as a whole...

There are no backyards here. There is a tiny balcony, which is just not suitable for playing. It has a large hole that drops down into my neighbor's balcony on a slope so that any dropped toy rolls off and down, we are not allowed to put up anything that might impede that hole from draining water. We hear complaints when the kids are inside and are asked to "tiptoe" at 7:30 am, when the kids go to school at 6:45. We did not move here with the expectation that the kids would be inside all the time, we moved thinking it would be a cul de sac with kids playing outdoors, where there is plenty of space away from parked cars for them to ride bikes, etc.

I am afraid to be outside of my apartment for fear of this one neighbor and the sway she seems to have. I am afraid to let my kids out, under my supervision or not. I am miserable here because of how we are treated and I know that if I lived on the other side, away from this neighbor it wouldn't be so bad, but it is.

I know there have been lawsuits won against people being told their kids can't play in the parking lot, and other things. I don't want to bring a lawsuit, I just want my kids to be able to draw with chalk, not have the neighbor wash it off within an hour of them finishing (it isn't even in her way from her car to the house) and MOSTLY for everyone to realize my kids are tenants and residents and not pets. Is there anything I can say to the board to make them reconsider these awful emails?

(Also, and this is just stupid: the chalk wasn't coming off on feet until that neighbor put water on it, it was perfectly fine to that point and NO chalk made it into my house with four times the number of people walking over it as into her house, more because I think we had friends that day.)

TL;DR: Suggestions by the condo management company which may or may not come from the board seem to unfairly target children and families. How do I get them to see my kids as humans? And if I DON'T WASH the chalk off, since it isn't currently a regulation, what can they do?
posted by bohdel to Law & Government (52 answers total)
You or some other parents need to run for the board. Sorry.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:02 AM on June 29, 2016 [16 favorites]

Well, if you don't wash the chalk off, they can make a new regulation that says "no markings, permanent or non-permanent, may be made on the pavement, ever ever."

A lot of condo associations are very contentious and full of assholes.

This kind of thing happens all the time at my mom's complex - one of the people on the board had a Thing about people parking their cars parallel to the townhouses instead of perpendicular (no one was blocking anyone else's spot) and now there is a regulation that you can only park directly in front of your garage door.

Another friend of mine got ratted out by a neighbor for not having the right color windowpane dividers.

I think it's actually very common for one squeaky wheel to run the show and ruin things for everyone. You can try to become the new squeaky wheel, especially if you feel like you have support from other young families in the complex. Which is probably going to be a lot of work. (If your asshole neighbor is retired, she probably has way more time to spend obsessing over this stuff than you do.)
posted by mskyle at 8:05 AM on June 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

When are the next condo board elections? It seems like you have a sizable coalition of parents who might be able to make some changes in board leadership, so that at least more people on the board think the way you do.

But you may also want to consider looking at this from a more neutral point of view. You speak about the HOA and management company "being disrespectful to [your] needs, " but the examples you list here seem a lot more like wants than needs. (pool hours that suit your schedule, allowances for grafitti in public spaces, etc.)

As much as I hate NIMBYism, I think it's important to respect that as newcomers, you are forcing changes on the people who have already established lives there. They obviously don't have a right to keep you from living, but your status as a parent doesn't give necessarily give you a right to steamroller their desire for a quiet and clean living environment.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:05 AM on June 29, 2016 [28 favorites]

Run for the board or move, to be honest. HOAs are notorious for making up their own regimes. You can't change it unless you're a part of it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:08 AM on June 29, 2016 [11 favorites]

You cannot underestimate the time and effort this person will put in to apply her preferences to everyone else who lives there. This is her full time job.

Organize with the other parents and reasonable people there. Get to know the board members. You have to run for board seats, and win them. One by one the rules will have to be changed, and expectations will have to change.

It may be worth getting to know this person and seeing what her beef really is. Go in with an open mind, see if you can impress upon her that the movement of kids into the building is real and will continue. But in so many of these situations, people behave as though the needs of the crankiest person are paramount.
posted by thenormshow at 8:10 AM on June 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

Nothing about the way your neighbors are acting seems illegal or discriminatory to me. Unfair or impatient or mean, but not discriminatory. Erasing the chalk is passive aggressive, but I hardly think you have a legal case against someone who erases your kid's drawing from the sidewalk.

In this case I would use whatever leverage you have and try to ignore this person otherwise, keep living your lives and using the space how you want within the limits they outlined while maintaining the moral high road. Don't do anything retaliatory that would illicit a negative reaction from your neighbor, that will only make your living space even more hostile. This is a really common problem in condos and other shared spaces where you have, for example, retired people living next to young couples. Assuming you own this place and aren't just renting it, you have some leverage through the association. I would exhaust that option before turning to the nuclear option. You're angry right now but being angry isn't going to make the problem go away.
posted by deathpanels at 8:15 AM on June 29, 2016 [9 favorites]

We will try running for the board, though I don't see that improving things until after my kids are grown.

I am talking less about MY needs than my kids, which outdoor play I do classify as a need.

I am willing to lawyer up, scrittore, but only if there is a chance something will come of it.

Chalk has been classified in many cases as not graffiti, and the pool hour thing isn't really that I'm upset that they won't change them, but that they were changed for what was supposed to be only a year and they won't even address the issue or hear it at a meeting.

It has been made clear that residents are not welcome at board meetings, so meeting the board members is hard.

I have tried since moving in to be nice to this woman, but she just goes around telling other people how awful we are.

I don't think what my neighbor is doing is illegal or discriminatory, it is the management's tone and wording in emails which seems that way. Children and families are a protective class, and they are going out of their way to pretend there are rules that don't exist.
posted by bohdel at 8:17 AM on June 29, 2016

It doesn't sound like this is actually coming from management, but rather from your neighbors, one or two in particular. So can you cut out management and make nice with the neighbors? Bake some cookies, bring the kids over and introduce them? Really kill them with kindness?

Management has to respond to complaints. They would likely get in more trouble for ignoring complaints. So I suggest you direct your anger at the neighbor making the complaints, not at management for responding to them.

I'm going to be really honest, though, I think some of your concerns are unreasonable and you're taking this way too personally. Complaining about kids making noise during the day is absolutely not analogous to complaining about loud music because someone is a different race. I know it feels to you like these people just hate kids and are looking for things to get upset about to force you out. Probably, though, they just actually really don't like noise during the day, regardless of who is making it. You should consider that their concerns are genuine and feel real to them.

If I were you, I would just suck it up and take my kids to the park after dinner. They'll have more fun at the park anyway. Regardless of who is reasonable and who is not, I suggest you talk to the complaining neighbor and try to make nice.
posted by quincunx at 8:20 AM on June 29, 2016 [18 favorites]

Can't you staple a piece of screen/mesh over that hole in the balcony?
posted by asockpuppet at 8:30 AM on June 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

It has been made clear that residents are not welcome at board meetings, so meeting the board members is hard.

Not welcome, or not allowed? I'm betting it's just the former. You'll need to read your HOA's bylaws/regs to find out what the rules actually are but I bet that the meetings need to be "open" to owner-residents.

Go to a few meetings just to observe, and maybe introduce yourself to folks, ideally without making demands in the first place. Then work out what you actually want -- if your kids need to play outdoors and the park isn't an option (for whatever reason), why do they need to ride bikes in the parking lot? Is there some other space that can be designated for play? Can a basketball hoop be erected somewhere? And then ask for that through the official processes.

they are going out of their way to pretend there are rules that don't exist.

I'm willing to bet that there are omnibus rules like "all residents shall respect the grounds and any plantings thereon" that would cover what you are being asked not to do.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:34 AM on June 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

Being a HOA board member is a VERY thankless job. It is a volunteer position where you literally are only guaranteed to make people mad at you. Unfortunately a lot of condos were not built with families in mind and their bylaws were written reflecting that.

You need to either determine that you are being told that you are violating rules/bylaws that do not exist and 1) point that out and/or 2) Sue the Association. Bear in mind, if you are an owner *you* are part of the Association. Also, a good point to know is it is probably illegal for Associations to arbitrarily enforce rules

If the above is not that case then you need to put your time/money where your complaints are and run for the board and work to make the community the one you want to live in. You can try to find other like minded parents to run as well. One thing to keep in mind, if you want to change the by laws you will probably need the majority of owners to approve the changes. You will also have to deal with all other items of running the property: budgets, vendors, other complaints.

While you (apparently?) aren't allowed to discriminate against someone because they have kids, that does not mean that having kids allows you to disrupt other's lives. That is something that you may want to step back and have a moment to think about. The riding bikes in the cul de sac is a safety hazard. The pool rules about un-potty trained children may be a city/health department code that the Association is legally required to follow, etc. These are allllll the things you will learn and have to take into account once you run for the board.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 9:09 AM on June 29, 2016 [13 favorites]

Actions don't need to be listed in the official condo rules to be unneighborly. I lived next to folks who did some of the things your kids are doing, and I'm annoyed all over again reading this.

As for riding bikes in the street, it may or may not be illegal. Some places require bikes in the street only, some on sidewalks only. But likely your kids on their bikes are getting in people's way.

Chalk on the sidewalk is unsightly, and kids shouldn't be camped out on the sidewalk anyway. The sidewalk is for, you know, *walking*!

Your kids should be playing in their own home/yard or in designated play areas/parks. You knew there wasn't a backyard prior to moving in. It sounds like right now you and they consider the entire neighborhood to be their playground, and this is interfering with your neighbors right to do basic things like drive and park and walk on sidewalks.

And the noise. Seriously?? People have a right to the peaceable use of their home. If multiple people are complaining about the noise, why not consider for a moment their perspectives??? It's very unlikely multiple people are complaining about nothing.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 9:16 AM on June 29, 2016 [37 favorites]

Re: the no bike-riding in the parking lot bit --- quite frankly, cul de sac or not, that just sounds like a reasonable safely rule to me. Parking lots are for cars, and little kids can be hard to see, plus they tend to dart rapidly and sometimes without stopping and looking each time. (I live in a condo building where sometimes, parents let their kids race their bikes inside the parking garages --- god forbid someone gets hurt, but if they do, who are those parents going to blame? Their darling children who shouldn't be in those garages in the first place? Nope!)

As for the chalk on the sidewalk --- yeah, that's graffiti. You may consider it art, but that's because it's from your kid; other people just see graffiti. And your insistence that no one clean it off... c'mon, if your kid can mark on the sidewalk other people are allowed to clean that sidewalk up.

The pool hours thing could be for a couple of reasons: they might have shifted the hours to make the pool more available to adults --- I know I can't ever use my own pool, because the hours (11am-5pm) only make it conducive to use by kids. Or they might have made the change for money reasons: a reduction in hours open would mean having to pay for fewer lifeguard hours. Or perhaps its a bit of both reasons.

I'm sorry, but parenthood doesn't mean your rights are superior to other peoples' rights. (And maybe fasten a small screen across that drain-hole your child keeps losing his toys through.)
posted by easily confused at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2016 [27 favorites]

You mention the Fair Housing Act. Have you contacted any local or national groups who deal with this? Familial status is a protected class under that act, as you know, and it's always been my impression that unreasonable rules or restrictions can't be written into leases or condo bylaws that pertain to families. For example, here is some language from a brochure by the National Fair Housing Alliance:

May a landlord make rules about how children should

Reasonable rules are appropriate. Here are some general
Rules should apply to all tenants and not just children.
Rules should address behavior, not status, and should not be
so restrictive that families with children do not get equal use
and benefit of the housing.

So that's pretty vague, and I honestly don't know if the examples you've given are ones that would be considered reasonable or unreasonable, but it might be worth giving NFHA or the VA Fair Housing office a call to clarify what exactly is okay and not okay.
posted by megancita at 9:41 AM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

HOAs are generally conservative about risk activities that could result in legal costs and damages. The HOA will get sued if a kid gets hit by a car, or falls out of a tree, or if someone trips on the toy kids have been leaving on the sidewalk. They take a stand against these behaviors as risk mitigation.

The HOA is really just a collection of homeowners and if the HOA gets sued it is the homeowners who are going to hit with the special assessment. When I lived in an HOA, I would have talked to the parent about kids engaged in normal kid behaviors that are also injury risk behaviors. If the parent didn't adjust, then I'd stop in the office and ask them to deal with it. I like kids and I'm not a jerk.

Sidewalk chalk? Cool if it's your sidewalk. Not cool on the shared sidewalk. Let them draw on the balcony and ask to put safely screening up to prevent dropped items.
posted by 26.2 at 9:45 AM on June 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'd suspect that the reason for not wanting kids in the pool is more about liability than noise. They don't want to pay for a lifeguard and the likelihood of kids going in the pool unsupervised is high.
posted by k8t at 10:00 AM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

All sidewalks are shared. They belong to the city, don't they? That's what makes it a sidewalk.

A couple of years ago, my condo newsletter included a paragraph "thanking the mom's for agreeing that sidewalk chalk is not appropriate in the courtyard." I swear I steamed for days. I don't have kids, but this was mess up in some many ways: "agreeing" with whom? Why were only mom's consulted? Surely some of these kids have dads. Do they "agree" that sidewalk chalk is inappropriate? And am I not entitled to an opinion just because I don't have kids? The sidewalk chalk hurts no one, it gives pleasure to many of our residents, and was being used next to the playground to draw pictures and hopscotch courts that again, hurt nobody and give pleasure to many.

And when I was a kid, the whole neighbourhood was my playground, and I suspect that's the way it was for most of the people making the complaints now. I don't see acting like your neighbourhood is your playground is a bad thing. If they're not letting people past on the sidewalk that's one thing, but as long as other people can still do their thing, I don't see the problem.

Run for the board. Continue doing anything that doesn't violate the condo or city by-laws. Making noise outside during the day is legal. They may not like it. (I know I don't like it...I'm listening to construction noise right now) but its legal and it has to remain that way because otherwise no one can renovate and the condo can never repair anything and nobody can have a picnic. What's more, making noise when playing outside is a pretty normal and practically required kid thing to do. Remember, the condo grounds IS their backyard. Changing the by-laws requires an owners vote, so i this if this is a parents vs. non-parents thing, make sure parents are going to the owners meetings.

posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:05 AM on June 29, 2016 [8 favorites]

Is there anything I can say to the board to make them reconsider these awful emails?

I recommend that you reexamine your complaints and how you are framing them, because to me this question makes you sound unreasonable.

1) Bike riding in the parking lot is a safety/liability issue and thus a reasonable concern.

2) Tree climbing is a safety/liability and property damage issue and thus a reasonable concern.

3) Your comparison to someone being told to stop cooking or listening to music based on their race is nonsensical and would make me tune out your argument.

4) Getting upset about sidewalk chalk is, imho, a bit silly, but why can't it be washed off within an hour of the kids finishing? How are your neighbors supposed to know when it was finished? Are you being a good neighbor and washing it off when the kids are done? Your insistence on leaving the chalk on the sidewalk is unreasonable.

5) If this is a community where folks tend to have 9-to-5 jobs, moving the pool hours to reflect when most people are able to enjoy the pool is reasonable. It is unreasonable to expect the pool hours to reflect your kids' (early?) dinner and bedtime.

6) The general tone of your question makes me feel like you might be one of "those" unreasonable parents who can't distinguish between normal "kids playing" ruckus and serious disruption.

I think there's room for compromise here (your proposal to shift pool hours a couple times a week sounds reasonable to me), but first you need to show the board and your neighbors that you understand their entirely valid concerns and that you are willing to listen to and work with them.
posted by lalex at 10:47 AM on June 29, 2016 [29 favorites]

It sounds to me like you have expectations of a suburban lifestyle that are incompatible with your actual living circumstances. The norms and etiquette of detached-home suburban life are very different from communal urban dwellings, so what is reasonable in one setting is unreasonable in another.

If you think outdoor play is a need that your children have, then take your kids to the park to play on a regular basis.
posted by Andrhia at 11:01 AM on June 29, 2016 [10 favorites]

I am not your lawyer, but I would seek out a consultation with one who specializes in fair housing and discrimination. HOAs could absolutely be on the hook for Fair Housing violations, and they can't discriminate based on familial status. The specifics of your question are nebulous enough that it's doubtful most of us here can tell you how much of a case you'd have - seek out an expert! You're not crazy for doing so. You might get some non-legal advice for taking care of the situation too.
posted by naju at 11:04 AM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Wow, you are getting some anti-kid comments here.

-Noise rules during the day are silly, and I would agree are targeted at kids. You have kids, they make noise. If people want a perfectly quiet living environment, they can live out in the country. You have a right to the use of your home, and that includes your children playing. There is no reason to expect that kids can or will exist within the preferred sound levels of adults. Sure, at night or early in the morning, you can put the effort into keeping your kid quiet, but until they really get "inside voices," it is fully unreasonable to expect an adult to keep them quiet all day. Rather than making a comparison to music, think about the noise that goes into landscaping, using power tools, or revving a loud engine. I bet no one is complaining about the noise involved in cutting the grass.

- Also, I agree that chalk is not being tracked into the house. People don't like it because they don't think it looks neat, or whatever. Again, your right to let your kids play is just as valid as their rights to a comfortable place to live. I'm not sure what the set-up is with the sidewalk, but if you can make a claim that it's only in front of your condo, it should be ok. People need to learn to live with other people around.

Your best bet is probably to run for the board, or just complain a lot until you become the squeaky wheel. You have the right to the use of your home, and that includes being noisy during reasonable hours and doing things that piss off your retired neighbors. I would take the emails to a lawyer to see if there is anything.
posted by ohisee at 11:06 AM on June 29, 2016 [10 favorites]

"Outdoor play is a thing you do in the suburbs or parks" is a thing people who grew up in the suburbs think. Ask anyone who grew up in the city and you'll discover there's plenty of sidewalk and yard play and bike riding going on downtown and in cities, as there should be. If cities aren't kid-play friendly, people with kids will move out of cities and that's not good for anybody. If you have a condo library, make sure it has a copy of Jane Jacob's Death and Life of Great American Cities, and bookmark the chapter on the uses of sidewalks.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:28 AM on June 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

Are you a renter in this condo? All these complaints (including the ones about your specific living space and not just the treatment of your children by others) are why people buy/rent houses to raise their families in. I am sorry that you feel discriminated against, but multi-family units have other people in them, and not all people are as in love with your kids as you are. If adults were doing any of these behaviors, I think your neighbors would be just as upset. It's not personal--they are disruptive. I know you said moving isn't on the table, but you may want to reconsider that stance because this battle seems like a waste of time and energy you could be putting into finding a more suitable residence.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 11:29 AM on June 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

why would you WANT your children to play in the parking lot? it makes sense that there is a rule or convention prohibiting this as it is pretty dangerous. sidewalk chalk is expressly mentioned as being not allowed in my building's rules, and there's only one kid, and she's a late teen.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:33 AM on June 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, just to be clear, I'm about as pro-you as possible here. The noise issue and the sidewalk chalk issue are BS. There are plenty of things making more noise than your kids (the lawn mowing was a great example) and the sidewalk chalk hurts no one. But letting small kids ride bikes in a parking lot isn't safe and the tree climbing thing is both a liability and could damage the tree, even if it hasn't yet. Have your kids ride their bikes on the sidewalk (respectfully) and save the climbing for equipment designed to climb on. I would not choose either of those things as the hill to die on because those are the two where there are most obviously objective, reasonable reasons to forbid those things that go well beyond someone-doesn't-like-it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:38 AM on June 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Thanks for all these thoughts here. I know I sound like a crazy parent. I am not, or at least, I really hope I'm not and try hard not to be. This is the third communal space we have lived in with kids (and the 12th or 13th as an adult), none have had a backyard or anything more than a balcony. One was an apartment, another was a condo and then this.

The sidewalk chalk that was washed away was on our portion of the sidewalk, in a place no one else would walk, just in front of and on our steps.

I have taught my children to walk quietly when downstairs (for the neighbors beneath us), I keep them inside our home on the weekends until 10 or take them to the park. I take them to the park or otherwise "out" daily. I have always tried to be a good neighbor, have cleaned up after the chalk, have watched my kids wherever we are, taught them how to stop their bikes when coming up to people walking and that we should ride on the streets when able. We bring all our toys in as soon as we are done playing. I have taught the kids that even if a neighbor is telling them something they know is wrong (like, "I heard your mom tell you not to walk down the street by yourself," to my 7 year old going to his friend's house while I watched him) you say "yes ma'am/sir" and come find me.

I have been nice to this neighbor, even though from the moment we moved in she has complained about us. Before saying "hi" she said "you better not have a dog that barks all day." I try to be friendly and go out of my way being kind to her. I have gotten her mail when she was on vacation, watered her plants, shared interesting books and movies, but this is still what I get, and she still doesn't talk to US about the chalk, just complains to management.

So, yeah, I'm angry and I am trying not to be rude to her or anyone, but I am angry, because we WOULD NOT HAVE MOVED here if the regulations had said anything to the effect of what we are experiencing. When we looked there were always kids playing in the lot and chalk drawings on the sidewalk. We were happy to be moving somewhere where there seemed to be a lot of kids.

And we did buy. We can't afford to move.

I do appreciate the voice of people who don't like kid noise, but your quiet enjoyment really doesn't mean that my kids can't laugh and play. Again, it is only a couple people. But, you're right, my complaint that kids=race is not a good one, I was angry, and I do feel that, knowing that you can't make a rule about noise during the day, they should have said that so that people could stop complaining about it and get on to other things.

We tried to request a basketball court, in the area of the parking lot the kids use (which really isn't used by cars, or needed), we, as a parenting group, were told there was no room.

Okay, I'm sorry for my replies being so long. I really appreciate your answers and want you to know I've read them all and am taking them to heart. Thank you.
posted by bohdel at 11:42 AM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

If only I had a penguin... I would love to have sidewalks they could ride on, but it really does feel less safe than the part of the parking lot they play on. Cars pull all the way up blocking the whole sidewalk and these people are really old. If you could see the place where they play I think you would agree the one is safer than the other.

And I really had no problem with the tree. My kids weren't allowed to climb it. It was more the fact that these issues are addressed before issues families are having. I climbed trees as a kid, but I have accepted the fact that my kids can't.
posted by bohdel at 11:47 AM on June 29, 2016

We tried to request a basketball court, in the area of the parking lot the kids use (which really isn't used by cars, or needed), we, as a parenting group, were told there was no room.

This may have to remain parking lot, regardless, either because it is in the condo constitution documents that there will be X number of parking spots or X size of parking (condo constitution documents are way harder to change than by-laws. Basically you need unanimous agreement of every single owner) or because there are city/zoning by-laws about the number of spaces the building is required to have. Also, adding amenities beyond what are listed in the constitution can really open a can of worms.

When you get elected to the board you will have no choice but to learn more about all this stuff.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:49 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

:) Yeah, we weren't expecting much, we were just trying to come to the table with positives instead of negatives. We requested the ability to plan community-wide parties to try to get everyone friendlier with each other, and that has been approved and is moving forward.
posted by bohdel at 11:53 AM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

You don't say how old your kids are (unless I missed) it, but could they ride their bikes on the sidewalk in the neighbourhood rather than just in front of the building (where i assume the parking lot is)? By the time I was 6 or 7 I would ride my bike, on the sidewalk, around the block (so never crossing a street). It sounds like your neighbourhood isn't very block-based, but if there's an around-the-block equivalent that moves a little farther afield of your neighbour (and outside the authority of your building's board) that would seem like a good option.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:58 AM on June 29, 2016

Can you ask for people to stop blocking the sidewalk with their cars? It might not be ideal for bikes and elderly residents to share a space, but if the parking lot is off limits, then the sidewalk should at least be accessible.
posted by ohisee at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

My kids are 5 and 7, and even without the cars being there it's a single sidewalk it would take them 2 minutes to ride to the end of, turn around and come back. Cars have been told not to block the sidewalks, but no one listens, especially the trucks that come and work on units. The parking lot has a little island that is about 100 yards away from the parked cars. Cars come in maybe once every half hour at most, and there is always a parent standing in the lot where the kids are playing and the kids get over to the side at the first whiff of a car. The speed limit is 10 mph, so it isn't like anyone is speeding. No one allows their kids to be by the parked cars, because ...well, that's just dumb. We really are trying.
posted by bohdel at 12:18 PM on June 29, 2016

I realize you are looking for people to agree with you, but I think you are missing some key points.

- That multiple people showed up to and HOA meeting to complain about your kids is exceptional. That really should clue you in that your kids are louder or more disruptive than you are thinking that they are.

- You didn't buy in suburia. If you want your kids to have the suburban tree climbing and bike riding then you need to take them to those environments. You don't get to take over the parking lot for that purpose.

Honestly, you are being unreasonable. Hey! Change the pool hours! Constuct a basketball court! Eliminate parking! Are you offering to pay completely for these modification or do you expect your neighbors to pay too through their HOA fees?
posted by 26.2 at 12:55 PM on June 29, 2016 [19 favorites]

One thing that seems to be getting left out here is that a lot of people live in communities with HOAs *BECAUSE* they want to be picky about things like landscaping and chalk on the pavement and people riding bikes and all that bullshit. I realize that some states/towns are more heavily HOA-ified than others, and you may not be able to buy a place without an HOA, but buying a place with an HOA has a lot of pitfalls, excessive interaction with difficult neighbors being one of them.

The condo board/HOA is presumably deciding things like what color people are allowed to paint their front doors and window trim, or whether people are allowed to work on their cars in their driveways. It's not bad or unreasonable to want to paint your front door hot pink, or hang laundry outside, or keep a compost bin, but a lot of condo associations are absolutely not going to allow those things.

I don't think your wants are unreasonable, OP, but HOAs are all about conforming to community norms, and I think changing those norms is going to be 1) slower than you would like and 2) a lot of work. Since you're not going to be moving, you need to figure out what is the easiest way to get along with your neighbors.

My mother has chosen to deal with HOA difficulties by maintaining a decade-long passive-aggressive feud with her next-door neighbor but I don't recommend that.
posted by mskyle at 1:19 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you decide to go the Feud route, parking on the sidewalk is illegal, cause sidewalks are for walking, y'know. Call your city's parking enforcement department when there are cars parked on the sidewalk. (I'm not picturing this at all -- so there's a parking lot with lots of empty space because cars don't park there, apparently, and then there are cars parked on the sidewalk?). The cars will get ticketed, the city will get some extra money, the word will go out that parking on the sidewalk is a bad idea, your kids can ride on the sidewalk, as God intended 5 and 7 year olds to do. Cars can park in the parking lot, as God intended cars to do.

Again, this is only if you decide to go the feud route, though.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:49 PM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

- That multiple people showed up to and HOA meeting to complain about your kids is exceptional. That really should clue you in that your kids are louder or more disruptive than you are thinking that they are.

They are not complaining about MY kids, they are complaining about the 25 kids that now live here.

I am not complaining a lot and asking them to change the pool hours, they changed the pool hours and said it would be for ONE YEAR. When they didn't change it back I asked if we could switch one or two days, because NO ONE goes to the pool after 7 anyway. I didn't think that was unreasonable.

Cars don't park ON the sidewalk, it is a lot which you pull forward, perpendicular to the sidewalk, no lines, but everyone is expected to figure out where the lines "should be" they pull the front or back end of their vehicles onto the sidewalk, mostly sports cars that have long noses or work trucks, these can completely cover the sidewalk.
posted by bohdel at 1:58 PM on June 29, 2016

Also, I would be the only parent going to the board meetings, because after the way we were treated last time, everyone else has decided to just ignore the board and management company and continue doing the things they want to do. Since the only person complaining is this one neighbor, it means that everyone is fine until my kids draw with chalk or whatever. How do I convince them that we need to go to the board meetings and sit there for the 2-3 hours each month?
posted by bohdel at 2:13 PM on June 29, 2016

Each MONTH?? Are you kidding? We typically have one owners meeting per year. You don't have to go to the board meetings. The board meeting isn't changing the by-laws, they're picking a contractor to wash the windows. Go to the owners meetings where board members are elected and where by-law changes are made. Typically if a board changes by-laws they're required to send notice and if people object they can force a vote of owners to be called. that vote would happen at an owners meeting. Why would you go to monthly board meetings?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:21 PM on June 29, 2016

Because they are making these rules at the board meeting. We are told that we need to make our case against chalk not being allowed at the board meeting. If I have a question about rules and regulations being suddenly emailed to me that are NOT rules and regulations I need to sit at the board meeting.
posted by bohdel at 2:24 PM on June 29, 2016

Management really does just keep telling us to go to the board meeting. And they make rules there. Are they not allowed to do that?
posted by bohdel at 2:25 PM on June 29, 2016

If everyone else is simply ignoring the rules about parking and sidewalk chalk and everything else...can't you do the same? What is the consequence here for violating things that are apparently not even part of the rules/regs? How about making friends with some of the other families and doing the sidewalk chalk over by their units/away from the mean neighbor?
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:49 PM on June 29, 2016

That is what I'm wondering. Because these AREN'T rules and regulations, just emails the management company keeps sending, saying they will CREATE these regulations if my kids don't stop. Other people don't have this problem because they don't have this same neighbor complaining about every little thing their kids do. You walk down to their section and toys are left out overnight, streamers hang from the trees, etc., and nothing has been said about these things which DO go against written regulations. It is only when my kids do anything and this one neighbor complains we all get emails.

The only thing other people everywhere else complain about is the noise, which, again, is not just my children, and usually doesn't include my children at all.

I am afraid my kids' actions will ruin everyone else's current symbiosis.
posted by bohdel at 3:11 PM on June 29, 2016

[bohdel, this really isn't a place for back-and-forth discussion. Please leave space for people to actually answer, and only respond with necessary clarifications. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:31 PM on June 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

They are all written as "no resident" and not "child" but I really think that is because I made a stink about them saying "children who are not potty trained" at the pool when there could easily be incontinent adults at the pool.

Not only is this common, according to this pool sign from Georgia it's needed for state compliance. This one from California mentions it numerous times.

Children who are not yet potty trained are not the same as adults with incontinence issues.

"Specifically I live in a condo where half the population started out as young singles in the 80s, and now, as they are dying or moving into retirement homes, is being filled with families with young children."

"Cars pull all the way up blocking the whole sidewalk and these people are really old."

First of all, how old are these people? I was a young single in the 80s and I'm 51. But more importantly, why do any of these points matter? You have a conflict with your neighbor. I don't say this to be pedantic but these comments taken together have an slightly aggro, ageist component plus a lack of compassion which may not be winning you allies.

On preview, it sounds to me like this is a problem between your neighbor and you. You say other parents and children ignore the rules without consequence, but your kid gets in trouble. Maybe it didn't start that way, but it sounds like the other parents give it one shot and decided it wasn't worth the battle.

I am afraid to be outside of my apartment for fear of this one neighbor and the sway she seems to have. I am afraid to let my kids out, under my supervision or not. I am miserable here because of how we are treated and I know that if I lived on the other side, away from this neighbor it wouldn't be so bad, but it is

You mention "we" throughout your question; is this person also as fearful? Is this just about playing with chalk or always? Because based on what you've said here, this seems like a disproportionate response.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:33 PM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a parent and I'm hugely sympathetic to your overall goal which is to enjoy a home where your children can participate in age-appropriate activity on the inside and then outside. But I don't think you can really push back on very many of these issues. In some ways I feel like your utopian vision of kids riding their bikes blissfully and having their chalk drawings left alone is in conflict with a utopian adult vision where there's never any noise...and neither are realistic.

The parking lot question is entirely reasonable as are the pool rules and hours.

The chalk seems over-the-top to me, but not worth fighting about...draw anyway (even if it gets washed off, that's sort of part of the chalk experience), take the chalk elsewhere, or paint a wall inside with chalk paint. Your kids will be fine.

The noise in the morning is super-hard; I would find it hard to get my kids to tiptoe on their way out the door, but I think it's actually kind of a useful exercise and I am now tempted to see if I can institute it. I'm also not sure how to keep 5 & 7 year olds quiet all day inside, so that seems the least reasonable, but it is a problem that they will likely age out of before you get a majority on the board. It still might be useful to run so that you get to be at the table. I also wonder if there's a tech solution like wall hangings.

As difficult as the situation is, in other words, I don't think it has to be doom forever.

Rather than framing this as an attempt to be mean to kids, I would look at it as a balancing act that your kids will learn from navigating. I would let them sort out how to drive bikes on the sidewalk (as long as it's reasonably safe), and buy them some skipping ropes and other toys that can be used on the sidewalk/in the space you do have.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:57 PM on June 29, 2016

Caveat: My experience is in California so you will want to do research in your state for your local laws.

In CA, boards cannot just create rules. A proposal for a rule is circulated to the membership and they have 30 days to give feedback. After that period, at a scheduled and open meeting, the board can decide if they want to enact that rule. Bylaws/CCRs need a membership vote to be changed, this is usually done during your annual election.

It is common for boards to meet monthly in a large/busy association. A large property HOA can essentially be a million dollar corporation (run by volunteers!). In CA, you have to meet at least quarterly.

It is illegal to enforce rules arbitrarily. For example, a board can not fine owner A for having sidewalk chalk drawings but owner B on the other side of the property can draw on the sidewalk with chalk. If they are enforcing it for you, they need to enforce it for everyone. Note: this is *enforcing* as in sending you a letter that you are in violation, requiring you to attend a hearing at a schedule meeting and fining you for the violation. Telling you "Cranky neighbor doesn't want your kids drawing on the sidewalk" is not enforcing. You could potentially make a case that enforcing rule A with you and allowing Rule B to be broken by others is arbitrarily endorsing rules. With that said, nothing you have posted reads to me that any rules are actually being enforced.... a letting asking you not to do something or claiming a new rule (that has not gone through the required rule making process) is not enforcing a rule.

Again, as I and others have said, you not liking that the rules are not *your specific family* friendly does not = you are being discriminated as a mom or because you have kids. This doesn't mean I am unsympathetic to the problem of expensive housing.... only that the two concepts are mutually exclusive.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 4:02 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Again, you want changes.... run for the board.

Learn the costs of putting in a basketball court.
Learn the local laws regarding kids in pools.
Learn the constraint of:
keeping the lights on,
roofs repaired,
the road and sidewalks patched,
the landscaping in good condition,
buildings painted,
keeping balconies from falling off the building,
the pool in working order,
replacing pool furniture every few years,
the property management company paid,
insurance payments made,
building reserves for future repairs/replacements
......all while trying to keep associations dues as is and avoiding special assessments.
Listen, every month when others want you to act like a landlord and mediate people being too loud, too messy, too smelly in their cooking.
Look at the finances and figure out what to do about people that aren't paying dues or fines
Listen to the complaint of the person who's upstairs neighbor caused water damage to their unit and the upstairs person is refusing to pay for the repairs.
Listen to more petty, whiny complaints than you can imagine from people who want you to act like a landlord against whomever they are complaining about.

I guarantee you after 6 months, you'll have changed your tune about how the management company and HOA are singling you out for persecution. This is one of those posts where I wish it was mandatory for updates to be given.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 4:10 PM on June 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

Or, you know, find out from a trustworthy lawyer who does this for a living whether you're being unreasonable, and in what instances, and what your legal and non-legal options are. Not sure why "you just don't understand what it's like to manage a property" keeps being trotted out when there are laws and cases on the books holding out families as a protected class that can't be singled out in certain ways. I'm willing to bet none of us have done the full research into that body of law.
posted by naju at 6:30 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think your tack here should depend on what your ultimate goal is. Do you want to make the association over into a body that reflects the new constituency, i.e. families with young kids? Then you need to get together with other families in the association and agree to support one another in the next board election. Do you want green expanses for your kids to play in without a care in the world? Then you need to move, because you've chosen to live somewhere where that's not possible. Do you want leverage to make your neighbor stop lodging complaints against you? Well, you would be amazed by how many things seem like they would be specifically prohibited by association rules, but are never actually spelled out. If it were me, and I'd chosen option number 3, I'd probably arm my kids with some sort of obnoxiously loud musical instrument, and let them go to it at the first permitted hour of the day. Then you at least have some leverage for the next time you talk to her.

Disclaimer: this will get you branded as an asshole, burn all bridges with other neighbors, and will keep you from ever holding board membership. But it sounds like you're most of the way there anyway, and are looking for short-ish term solutions. At the end of the day, they have to live there too, and if you start a pitched battle with your upstairs neighbors, you should be prepared for them to buy their kids clogs and tell them to Shake It Off at 7:30 on Sunday morning
posted by Mayor West at 10:06 AM on June 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Your neighbor is a bully. You're letting her get away with nonsense. The next time she goes onto your part of the sidewalk to wash off chalk, go out there and tell her to buzz off and leave your kids' drawings alone. Let your kids play all morning and don't worry about taking them "out," let them be kids.

In other words, when someone demonstrates that it is impossible to please them, stop breaking your back trying to please them. Don't be a martyr. If you truly think this is unfair, stand up for your kids and yourself by saying something directly to your neighbor.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:10 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Don't suck up to your neighbor. Suck up to someone on the board; preferably two someones. Tell them how you know their job is very difficult. Tell them you appreciate their hard work. Let them know that you understand and agree with some of their decisions. Be someone they like better than your neighbor, and someone they want to stick up for. Have your children make them adorable cards.

Right now, you and your neighbor are interchangeable annoying critical passive-aggressive people who hate each other. Become a person they want to represent.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:12 PM on June 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

I haven't read all the replies so this may have said already. For the bike riding issue, if cars are blocking the sidewalk, call the police. Yes its petty but its a law in our area that you can't block the sidewalk and occasioanally people do get ticketed. Complain to mgmt about it too. Riding in a parking lot that lots of elders park in is too dangerous! We lived in a condo with a bunch of teens/young 20's and mostly everyone else was retired. My goodness some neighbors hated us with a passion! I feel your pain and once one neighbor has you in their crosshairs life can become hellish. You've tried being nice now its time to fight fire with fire. Go to meetings, run for the board, get a younger family bloc started and life can improve there.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 10:38 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

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