One of the essential responsibilities of a community association Board of Directors is the development and enforcement of rules that are fair, enforceable, and well-communicated to residents. This is typically easier said than done. Rules should ensure that all residents are held to the same standards and should be designed to protect residents’ rights of enjoyment as well as property values. Often, however, rules can be too lax as to fail to uphold property values, or so authoritarian as to unfairly deny resident liberties.
A community association has to weigh the needs of the many against the rights of the few.
Two Recent Cases Highlight the Need for Balance
A homeowner recently challenged the age restriction of pool rules and filed a Fair Housing complaint with Housing and Urban Development. They reasonably asserted that their 16-year old son should be able to use the pool without an adult present. The association’s attorney recommended we lower the age restriction to under 14 to avoid these types of complaints in the future. In this case, the attorney found a reasonable balance between resident safety and enjoyment of the amenities.
In another recent example, CMA advised against a Board member’s proposed rule banning “ugly” pots from being placed in the front yard. Given the subjectivity of the term “ugly,” CMA suggested either implementing a rule against all pots placed in front yards (to avoid unsightly decorations) or a rule prohibiting pots without plants. Our guidance was designed to provide homeowners with clear instructions, free from the ambiguity of interpretation. This would also help the Board to avoid legal challenges.
Guidelines for Rule Creation and Implementation
So how should your Board go about developing community rules? Following these simple guidelines will help to ensure that the community rules your board develops are legal, fair, and enforceable:
A community association has to weigh the needs of the many against the rights of the few, and this can be a tricky line to walk. Often, rules can be too flexible as to fail to uphold property values, or too authoritarian as to unfairly deny residents’ liberties. By following these guidelines, your community rules will strike a fair and equitable balance.
CMCA®, AMS®, PCAM® Director of Strategic Planning and Project Management