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CCOC Decision Summary

Prue v. Old Georgetown Village Condominium #24-14 (August 3, 2015) (Panel: Browder, Winegar, and Coyle).

The owner of condominium unit 211 filed a complaint against her Condo Association because it would not enforce its rules banning excessive noise by her upstairs neighbors in unit 311. She specifically requested that the Condominium be ordered to compel the owners of the neighboring unit above her to install carpeting over 80% of that unit’s floor as required by its rules.

The upstairs owners and previously applied for, and been granted, permission to install hardwood floors in their unit although the rules and regulations in effect at that time, provided that “Except for kitchens, bathrooms, closets, and entry halls, each unit shall have not less than 80% of its floor area covered by carpet or rugs.” At about the same time, the Association updated its flooring standards requiring “all new hard-surface flooring,” including wood flooring, to “have a noise-absorbing underlay” with an “Impact Insulation Class (IIC) rating” of “60 or higher for hard-surface [floors] other than tile.”

Following several noise complaints by the owner of unit 211, the Association performed an inspection of unit 311 and determined that the unit lacked sufficient carpet coverage in violation of Rule 36 and informing them that their unit was the subject of a noise impact complaint. In reply, the owners of unit 311 submitted a letter dated December 11, 2013, to Ms. Harris from a medical doctor detailing the medical reasons for installing hardwood flooring and refraining from implementing the “adequate floor coverage” suggested by the Association. The Association eventually agreed to allow the 311 owners the right to use the new hardwood floor without a carpet. This complaint followed.

A CCOC panel conducted a full hearing on the merits of the dispute. However, following the hearing the Association notified the panel that the complainant’s lawyer was not licensed to practice law in Maryland. The panel held that where a party in a case before an administrative agency such as the CCOC is represented by a person who is not a licensed attorney, the entire proceedings, including the hearing and all evidence presented at it, were a “nullity” and would have to be repeated. The panel went on to hold that the complainant was liable for the Association’s legal fees for the nullified hearing and ordered her to reimburse the fees in a reasonable amount. The panel then disqualified itself from the case and the CCOC appointed a new panel.

The new hearing panel held a new hearing on the merits at which the complainant was properly represented by a licensed attorney. It determined that the Association responded to this noise complaint consistently with its responses to other noise complaints lodged by other Condominium residents and that the complainant did not show any bad faith by the Association. On the contrary, the panel found that the board’s decision was a reasonable one based on evidence from the owners of 311 that they had a physical disability that required a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. The panel dismissed the complaint.

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