Do Ground-Floor Co-op Apartments Really Have to Carpet Their Floors?

Q: My mother has bad allergies and had to remove all of the carpets from her home many years ago. Now she’s looking to downsize, and we found a ground-floor apartment in a co-op in Nassau County. But the house rules require wall-to-wall carpeting, with padding, in every room except bathrooms and kitchens — even in ground-floor units, where no one lives below you. We put a deposit on the apartment, which has beautiful hardwood floors that had never been carpeted, and we know of at least two other apartments that also don’t have carpet. There’s a $500 monthly fine for noncompliance. We’re afraid that if we raise the issue, they will deny us the apartment. What should we do?

A: Requirements that co-op units be carpeted, typically in order to minimize the noise of everyday life being heard in other apartments, are common. Your mother’s allergies might be a defense against such a rule, but the availability of hypoallergenic carpets could complicate that, said Marc H. Schneider, managing partner of Schneider Buchel, a law firm that represents co-op boards.

Fair housing laws require housing providers, including co-ops, to make reasonable accommodations when a disability inhibits a person’s use and enjoyment of a dwelling. Your mother can request a waiver for the carpet rule, including a doctor’s note with the request.

“However,” Mr. Schneider said, “we have had this issue come up many times in the past, and my experience tells me there are hypoallergenic carpets available, which would then make the accommodation unreasonable and not required to be granted by the co-op’s board of directors.”

If your mother’s allergies are especially bad, a doctor could explain to the board why she must have hardwood floors and why a hypoallergenic carpet wouldn’t work for her, said Lisa A. Smith, a partner at Smith Gambrell Russell in Manhattan.

If you have already put down a deposit, it might be difficult to cancel the purchase. From what you describe about the lax enforcement of the rule in other units, you might not have an issue if no one complains about noise, Ms. Smith said.

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