W.S. from Maryland writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
The Maryland Condominium Act (11-109d) authorizes the Council of Unit Owners enumerated powers subject to the Act and its own declaration, and bylaws. Number (16) is the right to “… and, after notice and an opportunity to be heard, levy reasonable fines for violations of the declaration, bylaws, and rules and regulations of the council of unit owners.” The “Powers and Duties” of the Condo Board in its By-law notes that the board may do … “as are not by law or these By-laws directed to be exercised and done by the unit owners.”
When president of a Maryland board, I would not support fining. I proposed a patriotic rule that would require only red cars to be parked in odd numbered spaces, white cars in free spaces, and blue cars in even numbered spaces. After all I would have needed only two other board members to impose this edict on all hundred or so owners.
The last section is a fun thing while the first is very (legally) serious.
PS: You probably know that even though authorized by State law, the supreme courts of both Virginia and Rhode Island have found the laws imposing fines on condominium owners to be unconstitutional.
Mister Condo replies:
W.S., as you probably know I am not an attorney nor do I lay claim to a vast knowledge of all of the individual state laws regarding common interest communities. I am aware that Maryland has been very proactive in legislating what can and cannot be done by Boards with regards to how they govern the folks who have elected them to do so. In that way, your state is not so different from Connecticut where a large modernization of the Common Interest Ownership Act (also known as CIOA) that occurred in 2010/11 is coming to have great effect on how many Boards interpret the state statute as compared to simply abiding by their original condominium documents as had been the norm for many years. Regardless of which state your condominium is in, the Board must first abide by federal laws (few) followed by state laws (numerous and vary from state to state), local municipal law (becoming more common although primarily in larger cities) and then their own governing documents.
Ignorance of these laws is no excuse for not following them although, for the most part, it is incumbent upon the individual unit owners to take action against their Board when their rights are violated. States such as Florida which require Board members to become certified through state-mandated training and states such as Illinois who have a voluntary program of Board member training are seeing positive results in many of their community associations although even that system isn’t flawless. It really all comes down to education. In my state, many associations have come to rely on the local chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI).
You have two excellent chapters that service different parts of Maryland. The Chesapeake Region Chapter at http://www.caimdches.org/ and the Washington Metro Chapter at http://www.caidc.org/. If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to get in touch with them and seek to work with them to clarify best community governance practices for communities like yours. Thanks for the red, white, and blue humor. I find it best that we all take ourselves a little less seriously from time to time. It helps everyone enjoy their community association living situation a little bit more. When everyone plays nice and follows the rules, there can be no better place to live. All the best!