How To Change HOA Rules and Regulations

HOA Rules and Regulations

Here’s a challenge:

Take out your current set of Rules and Regulations. Now, pretend you are a brand new homeowner who really wants to work with the board and management by actually reading this package of rules. Be honest. What are your reactions and opinions? Keep them in mind as you read the rest of this article.

Far too many associations have created rules and regulations that seem old, wordy, and sometimes conflicting with each other, with little sense of organization and order. They may have been frequently updated as each new board encounters a new situation that the directors felt required another rule. Community association practitioners know the consequence: pages and pages of hard to understand and hard to enforce rules and other rules that might have been relevant once and are no longer valid and are just ignored.

Here are some steps you can take to refine your Rules and Regulations so they are more effective:

1.      Determine the behavior or outcome you want. For example, if you want to have the front lawns free of dog feces, tell the dog owners that is their responsibility.

2.      Be certain that this is a matter that is important enough for the association to invest its time and effort. Do you or your neighbors really care about the rule and would agree if the board had to spend legal fees to enforce it? For example, is the style of the front door knocker or the number of holiday candles worth fighting over in court?

HOA Rules can be changed

3.      Confirm that the association and board have the authority to enforce this rule. Your governing documents, state laws and court decisions will be your sources. For example, there continue to be rules prohibiting satellite dishes in non-condominium properties that suggest that the association has far more authority to control those devices than they actually have under the FCC regulations.

4.      When possible, write the rule in a constructive, clear manner in laymen’s terms so it says what you want to happen. And as often as possible, try to minimize the “no’s” and “not’s”. For example, say that bicycle riding is permitted only in the streets instead of saying no bicycle riding on the walks or common areas.

5.      Keep the wording simple. Please don’t think of it as government legislation or believe that the more wordy you make something the more likely it will be followed. For example, if you can control vehicles, just say that only vehicles with current licenses and inspection stickers are permitted on the paved portions of your property. And, if you have a restriction on types of vehicles, just add a very few words to that one sentence.

6.      When effective, consolidate. For example, if after drafting the Rules and Regulations you still have a number of important issues that your residents cannot and you don’t want to list them as “Don’ts” one right after another, allow one section that says, “All of the following are not allowed by the Association . . .”

7.      Eliminate those rules that have never been enforced or are irrelevant. For example, if the Declaration already prohibits mining, clotheslines or dog kennels, then skip them in the rules.

8.      Confirm each rule is truly enforceable. Can the poor behavior be seen or documented? For example, can you really determine if a car is parked for more than 24 hours in the guest parking area?

9.      Check with your association’s attorney to make sure the rule is valid and reasonable.

10.  Finally, add the catch phrase that imposes the obligation of all residents to be reasonable and respectful of neighbors and explain that what they do or leave outside their home affects their community’s lifestyle and property value. That is the criteria the board (or committee) will use in its enforcement effort.

This phrase gives the board the ability to address unique situations not specifically covered by its new set of shorter and more understandable rules. It will also enlighten community leaders who erroneously believe that unless you tell someone they can’t do something, they can.

Enforcing rules and regulations is one of a community association’s most important responsibilities and greatest sources of angst. Often the conflict created between neighbors is of greater consequence than the original rule violation. Taking the steps above will help reduce the chances of these conflicts by approaching the rules development process from a systematic and reasonable perspective.

Written by: Steve Castle, CMCA®, AMS®, PCAM®
Published in Association Times: August 2008