E.K. from New Jersey writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am the Vice President of a 45-year old, over-55 condo, where rules and regulations have not been in enforcement for MANY years. We are about to embark on a project to begin enforcing these things, and are looking for ways to engage the community ahead of time and to publicize the project. What advice can you give us? (I already have several bottles of Excedrin.) Thanks!
Mister Condo replies:
E.K., when enforcement of some rules has been lax at a community association, residents often feel that they do not need to follow any rules. When long periods of time elapse from when rules are not enforced to when they are enforced, education is often your best ally in helping residents realize that observing the rules will improve their quality of life at the condo. However, if you simply go from no enforcement to complete enforcement without an attempt to first get voluntary behavior modifications, my guess is that you will create a lot of unhappy residents. This is a great communication job for your community newsletter and website. It might also make sense to send out notices to owners and residents as well.
I would first begin by describing some of the problems that this lack of enforcement has caused. For instance, if the primary problem is parking lot chaos caused by not enforcing parking rules, notify residents that not enforcing this rule has created an unsafe situation in our parking lots, exposing the association to unnecessary risk. The rules about parking are as follows: there is no overnight parking allowed in visitor spaces, no parking in the Fire Lanes, no commercial vehicles allowed on the property, and so on. Beginning January 1, the Board has hired XYZ towing company to help enforce these rules. Between now and then, your voluntary compliance is expected. Unit owners violating the association’s parking rules will be cited, asked to appear before the Board to explain why they violated the parking rules and may be fined for doing so as in accordance with association rules. Cars parked in Fire Lanes will be towed at once at owner expense. Of course, you need to have clearly marked Fire Lanes and signage indicating that Fire Lanes at Tow Zones. Your local towing contractor will likely alert you of any other local laws about towing, including notifying local authorities when a vehicle is towed as they are the ones who will get the phone calls about missing cars from effected vehicle owners.
Do similar campaigns for other issues. Typically, the things that create problems for associations are pets, trash, improper storage of personal items, noise, and improper activities on association grounds. I would tackle each of these issues separately and enforce them as necessary. I would also tackle them one at a time until I was certain the rules were being followed. In each and every case you need to be certain that the rules are enforced uniformly. You can’t “let it slide” for one unit owner and not another. Otherwise, the Board could be accused of discrimination and subject to a lawsuit. In many cases, it is wise to speak with the association’s counsel for assistance in rolling out a rules enforcement program to make sure that the rules are legal and properly in place before enforcement begins. But if your rules are well written, widely publicized within the community, and enforced regularly, I see no reason you can’t restore order and improve conditions at your condo. All the best!