HOA and condo rules work to complement bylaws and covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). These rules and regulations are intended to help keep communities safe, as well as address potential issues or recurring problems within the community. Some common rules include parking guidelines, trash and recycling procedures, pet restrictions, pool rules, maintenance standards and rental restrictions.
Though a developer may create a basic set of rules, the board will often establish more detailed or appropriate rules once control of the community is turned over to owners. Board members have the authority to propose and amend rules, but owners must support these changes (more on that below). Furthermore, the rules can’t conflict with bylaws, CC&Rs or local or state laws.
The specific rules and regulations governing your community are found in the condo or HOA’s governing documents. If people know what the rules are, they are more likely to follow them, which is why it’s important to give owners easy access to this information. Some communities share the most current copy of the governing documents on a password-protected website or private document storage platform. This is a good practice to adopt because owners can easily check the rules whenever they need to.
Some of the most common association rules include:
- Vehicles and parking
- Trash disposal
- Trash storage
- Rules for transferring ownership of a property
- Rental restrictions
- Inspection of association records
- Policies for collecting delinquent dues and assessments
- Policies for privacy
- Gym rules
- Noise and nuisances
- Pool rules
- Holiday décor
- Design changes
The rules can change
As noted earlier, the board of directors typically has the power to pass new rules and regulations, or make amendments to existing rules. The governing documents normally outline the procedures the board must follow to make or change rules. For example, the board must give owners both proper notice and an opportunity to challenge the rule if they do not support it. Here’s a real example of how it works in Ontario:
1. A new rule must be approved by the board of directors at a board meeting.
2. When the rule is approved, the board must then provide a notice to the owners with the following information:
- A copy of the new rule or amendment
- The date on which the change will be effective
- A statement explaining that owners have the right to requisition a meeting about the rule, and that the rule will come into effect 30 days after the notice is given, unless a meeting is requisitioned
- A copy of section 46 and section 58 of the Condo Act
3. If a meeting is not requisitioned within 30 days from the time when the notice is issued, the rule comes into effect.
4. If a meeting is requisitioned, the board must call and hold a meeting within 35 days. In this case, the rule will become effective unless the owners of a majority of the voting units participating in the meeting vote against it.
Each community will have its own way of approving rules, but many processes will look similar to this one.
Giving owners an opportunity to vote on rules allows them to have some control over how the community operates. It would be unfair for board members to have complete control over the implementation of new rules.
Instances where rules are not enforceable
On occasion, a rule that is unenforceable may be proposed. Owners have every right to vote against these types of rules. Furthermore, if an association tried to take action in response to an owner not following an unenforceable rule, it would have a hard time creating a strong case in a courtroom. Rules are considered unenforceable if the rule:
- Violates an owner’s rights or is in conflict with local or state laws, CC&Rs or bylaws
- Can’t realistically or reasonably be enforced by the board
- Was passed without following proper procedures
- Is enforced inconsistently or selectively
The last point is a bit tricky because owners would still be expected to follow the poorly enforced rule. However, someone who believes they are being subjected to inconsistent rule enforcement could take legal action against the association. The owner will need proof that selective enforcement took place, though.
How to promote new rules
When a new rule comes into effect, boards must do what they can to ensure owners know about it. This way, there is little confusion about the change. Most people won’t knowingly break a rule, but they may do so accidentally if they weren’t aware that the rules existed.
Even if the board sent out a notice about the proposed rule, it should follow up with additional communication once the rule comes into effect.
Share the news using multiple communication channels
The best way to inform residents of new rules is to use multiple communication channels. Depending on the resources available to the association, management could use a combination of the following options:
- Resident portal or dedicated communication platform
- Community website
- Physical letter
- Bulletin board
By sharing the news using two or three different methods, you increase the number of people who will see the new notice. If you have property management software like Condo Control, you can even share the message via text or automated voice message. You can also add a copy of the most up-to-date rules in the File Library where any resident can view the document.
Put a positive spin on the rule change
People don’t tend to think of a new rule as good news. Usually, they equate that with more restrictions and limitations. Instead of simply stating what the new rule is, give a short but concrete explanation of the new rule being introduced. Explain how it will benefit the community or clear up confusion about a mirky issue.
Be reasonable, but make sure owners receive notice if they do break a new rule
Residents should also be informed about the consequences of breaking the new rule. This will encourage residents to comply with the new rule.
Enforcing rules is key to maintaining any property’s value and keeping the peace within the community. That’s one key reason why consistent rule enforcement is so important. The board must take action, even if the rule is relatively new.
That being said, condos and HOAs are encouraged to be fair when enforcing a new rule. In most cases, first-time offenders receive a warning letter. The letter should be courteous and void of harsh tones and language. It should detail:
- What rule was broken
- What corrections are needed
- When the corrections must be made
- What happens if the resident doesn’t take the appropriate actions in time
Some residents may forget about the new rule, which is why a warning letter is a good way to address the issue. It informs the resident of the issue without punishing them for making a mistake.
Association rules should always enhance or improve the community’s safety, value and well-being. They should never be created as a way to encroach on residents’ personal lives. Boards must find a balance when creating new rules and ensure that the rules don’t end up being unnecessarily restrictive.