G.S. from New Haven County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
How do we, as a condo, add sanctions to our bylaws for unit owners disobeying rules?
Mister Condo replies:
G.S., voluntary compliance with condo rules and regulations is the goal of every great community association. It seems a simple enough principal that people who agreed to follow the rules when they purchased their condo would want to follow the rules so they can peaceably enjoy their unit and expect the same of their neighbors. However, as new unit owners come and go, units become rentals, or just plain unruly or uncaring people move into the condo, rules enforcement becomes a major issue for well-intentioned condo associations.
Begin with your existing bylaws and/or rules and regulations. Chances are the penalties are spelled out. It is not unusual for there to be small fines associated with minor offenses. I have seen fines as low as $5 per occurrence but none much higher than $25, which may be a good number to shoot for if your community does not have a fine system in place to “encourage” good behavior amongst residents.
Adding or updating your fine structure is as simple as having the item added to a Board meeting or homeowners meeting and adopting the new system. You will need to notify all unit owners of the new fine schedule and allow adequate time for the word to be spread before implementing it. Also, I would encourage you to inform all renters and landlords if you have those folks within your community.
Finally, you should familiarize yourself with the state laws found in the Common Interest Ownership Act, also known as CIOA regarding fining any resident. Basically, a notice must be sent before the fine is levied notifying the offender of the rule that was broken and the intention to levy a fine for the infraction. The unit owner must be given an opportunity to appear before the Board to explain why the infraction occurred. The Board may then take action against the unit owner by levying the fine, letting them off with a warning, or dismissing the charge if an adequate explanation were offered. If you do not follow these procedures, the unit owner could refuse to pay the fine and, if taken to court over the matter, would likely prevail against the association.
That’s an awful lot of work to get unit owners to play nice but that is the process in the state of Connecticut. I encourage you to try honey before vinegar and begin with friendly warning letters notifying offenders that they break a rule. The fine system is designed to encourage people to behave as good neighbors. A better strategy would be to create good neighbors by education. Use the fines as a last resort. Good luck!