WHY DOES MY ASSOCIATION NEED ANY STINKING RULES?
When an owner purchases a home in a planned community or buys a condominium unit they become a member of an association. This membership means that to a certain extent, that you have agreed to a certain lifestyle. Associations depend on rules and regulations to define the standard of conduct expected of their community members. Living in an association can be a great experience if you prefer the company of like minded neighbors, but this membership may not be a good fit for someone that may consider themselves a free spirit, say the type of person that keeps their Christmas tree lights up all year.
Creating “rules” for a community is often one of hardest tasks a board has. Well written rules can preserve property values and provide owner’s a safe, peaceful and predictable place to live. Poorly written or unenforceable rules can have the direct opposite effect, creating disharmony and owner frustration.
A homeowners association is a political entity. It is empowered by its governing documents to adopt rules and policies to manage and regulate its affairs. These documents, also known as the declaration, CC & R’s (covenants, conditions and restrictions)) along with the bylaws provide the framework for your communities’ rules, as well as creating the obligation to enforce. Created prior to the development of the association they are recorded in the same manner as a deed. Board members often times find that their association’s documents contains vague restrictions which may not be specific enough to enforce, or clear enough for owners to understand. Rules do not supersede or change the documents but rather clarify the association member’s rights and obligations. Boards will certainly have an easier time enforcing their communities’ rules, when owners have a clear understanding of their community’s documents, why they are in place and what the consequences of not following them are.
The purpose of any rule is to provide a basis for protecting member’s equity in the community, to assure the continued aesthetic beauty of the community, and to provide the framework within which people can live in harmony.
Drafting Effective Rules
The first step in having an effective rules policy is to make sure that it is written in a simple, concise and clear manner. An effective rule needs to fulfill the following:
Remember that more rules are not necessarily better- strive for a balance. Is the rule needed or are there restrictions already in the governing documents that can be used to enforce? No rule should ever contradict what is in the association’s governing documents, nor can it violate fundamental constitutional rights. It also must be in keeping with any federal state or local laws.