Let’s face it, we all need rules.
Knowing what’s acceptable and – perhaps more importantly, what isn’t – helps set standards and define expectations and consequences. Knowledge of what is and isn’t acceptable also generally provides a structure for successful management and peaceful coexistence whether it be at the office or out on the roadways.
If you live in a neighborhood with a community association, you know just how important rules can be, and that following them (for most of us) is easy enough.
Making rules, on the other hand… well, that can be another story.
If you are on the board of a community association, you may have to develop new restrictions or guidelines from time to time. And, if you do, it’s a fair guess to say you and your fellow board members aren’t going to please everyone.
So, how do you strike a balance between orderly and overbearing? Here are a few rules to live by when making rules for your association:
Get out the guidelines. It’s important to remember that rules only work if they’re enforceable. Let’s say you want to restrict the size of pets in your condominium association. While perhaps a reasonable idea, creating a restriction such as “all dogs must be less than 10 lbs.” would be nearly impossible to actually impose on residents. That is, unless you want to go door-to-door with a scale and likely have your neighbors howling in protest. A better place to start when considering a new rule is with your association’s governing documents. Enforcement should be clearly spelled out in the Covenants, Codes and Restrictions (CC&R). Any association rule must align with your CC&Rs as well as current state and local laws.
Professional community association management companies like CAMS are well-versed in this process and can assist boards in developing rules that are both enforceable and reasonable.
Know your limits. Most often, association boards approve and enact new rules without needing a consensus from residents. But that doesn’t mean, of course, that boards have free rein over the neighborhood.
Rules are applied to common areas – such as pools, clubhouses and fitness facilities – as well as conduct in those shared spaces. Understanding your rights – and your boundaries – can help point a board towards rules that won’t lead to legal battles down the road.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. We can’t overstate this one. Even if you aren’t required as an association board to seek rule ratification from members, remember that those members are also your neighbors and friends.
If you are considering a hefty or impactful rule, you may want to survey homeowners to see where they stand before moving to ratify. And no matter what, once a new rule has been approved it should be clearly publicized so residents not only understand the rule but also how it will be enforced and the consequences for non-compliance.
One last bit of advice is to remember why we have rules in the first place. At CAMS, we do our best to make complying with the rules easy. For Example, instead of having surprise inspections that result in lots of violations, we give residents advance notice of inspections to allow them to rectify any potential violations ahead of time.
We understand that rules aren’t created to punish people; they’re there to help us all live together in harmony.