Starting a new year always means new resolutions and rules; your condo property isn’t any different, many boards will wait till the first of the year to implement new or revised condo rules. By having a designated period in which they make condo rule changes, it helps the residents to learn when and where to look so they can stay in compliance.
Why condo rules change
Many people wonder why condo rules must change at all; I mean, they should be fairly basic, right? Truth is, there are societal and operational changes happening daily and with that will come changes to condo rules. For instance, your condo rules may currently indicate that trash should be left by your door on Monday morning for pickup that day; if the trash day moves to Wednesday, the rule must change.
Changing some condo rules can go beyond affecting a single concern. Rules could create an even more dangerous and complex issue for residents. A recent example of this happened in Placer County, CA. One resident in a condo community was allowing people to live in their garage; with the garage door constantly being closed, it was hard for management to catch them breaking the rule that prohibited this. To remedy the situation, a new condo rule was written, and a notice sent out that everyone had to leave their garage door open from 8 am to 5 pm daily. Residents of course are up in arms due to privacy and security concerns. You can read the article here (http://www.kcra.com/article/hoa-garage-door-policy-draws-auburn-residents-ire/14755270). The consensus is, there has to be another way to address this random issue without endangering other residents.
My daddy always said, “Be careful when you say there ought to be a rule against that, because many times in protecting one, we endanger the masses.” Not sure where it came from, but it makes sense. Condo rules should not be altered to address what is basically an isolated instance with one or two problem residents.
Condo rules and public opinion
Another area to be careful about when making new condo rules is how they will be seen in the court of public opinion. You always have to be thinking about the resale of your property based on your public image. Sometimes public opinion is just a matter of how a rule is presented, it’s a very simple formula:
Identify the Issue-Explore Options-Make Rule-MARKET Condo Rule to Homeowners
Yep, you read that right, market the condo rule; when you release a new condo rule, homeowners should have a clear definition of what the problem was, the process you went through to arrive at your rule and the actual condo rule. They need to buy in and know you have their interest at heart. The same is true of the public. One HOA in Houston has taken a PR hit after they posted signs banning photography sessions on their grounds. (https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Pricey-Houston-Neighborhood-Prohibits-Elaborate-Photo-Shoots-463444893.html). Now there’s even a challenge to their legal right to do so.
Making condo rules-proceed with caution
If you are sitting on your condo association board, the best advice is to proceed with caution when making new rules or revising existing ones. Be sure the rule is being made because you are “Acting, not reacting.” Most condo rules made as a reaction with limited forethought become legal challenges in the future.
Be sure your condo rules clearly state the expectations and the whys for those expectation as well as the penalty for non-compliance. Even more importantly, communicate the changes in multiple forms for all residents. Many condo bylaws address how changes can and will be made; be sure you are aware of these. Final advice, before you announce your new rules, run them by your legal team and management team.