Category: Community Governance

When Rules Don’t Make Sense

The media never misses an opportunity to cast community associations in a negative light. Unfortunately, in many cases the community association’s board doesn’t do it any favors either.

I’ve read tons of stories meant to demonize associations for controversial decisions, and wearing my community association manager hat I can often wrap my head around the valid argument supporting the decision. Unfortunately these scenarios can be unavoidable, especially depending on how well the story can be spun to get people’s attention and get them angry.

But it does happen too often that association’s enforce rules that don’t make sense. Occasionally a handful of board members have a nonsensical axe to grind, but more often a case arises where a perfectly logical rule has to be applied to a situation it wasn’t intended for but it fits the bill of nonetheless. Rules have to be applied with consistency to prevent accusations of discrimination, and rules have to be applied if they exist to prevent accusations of nonfeasance.

Whether a rule is able to be modified by the board or requires an amendment and a vote of the owners depends upon which governing document it is listed in and what the procedures outlined for amendment include. If the governing documents are properly written, rules and regulations are subject to modification by majority vote of the board. But very often this is not the case.

Regardless, when rules issues arise that don’t make sense, especially when they give rise to headline stories such as this, they must be modified and urgently. When stories like this make the news and there is no justifiable defending statement the association can make, it casts the community in a very negative light. It affects everything from community morale to actual home values if the community gains a negative reputation.

Your community’s rules must be enforced uniformly and fairly. If a situation arises such as our example here, it’s important to change the rule and not just forego it’s enforcement to sweep the issue under the rug nor enforce it without making the effort to change it. Regardless, don’t make headlines this way.

Is it worth your safety? An unfortunate reason self-management can be dangerous.

The biggest benefit of self-management is the money your association saves by not having a management company. Is it worth it? Most would say no. The time burden on volunteer trustees, the potential for theft and the potential for accusations of theft are the most common deterrents. But what about your individual safety?

When an association is self-managed it is up to the board to enforce policies pertaining to delinquent collections and property violations. There’s no way around creating some bad blood in enforcing these policies. Most don’t escalate to quite the level as this unfortunate situation, but it’s certainly a possibility depending upon how negative the situation becomes and how unstable neighbors may be.

As a trustee there is no avoiding some level of hostility when policies adversely affecting neighbors are enforced, but having a community association manager signing off on liens, violation notices and other documents can help defer some bad blood and create a buffer for the trustees. The anger and impulsiveness many are willing to demonstrate from their front porches becomes a lot less dangerous when it’s in the form of a phone call or email to the manager, and most will come to their senses by the time an in-person meeting occurs when needed.

A manager signing off on the lien in this case instead of the HOA’s president may not have helped this situation, especially considering there was already a history. But it certainly could have cut down on the possibility, and with a manager to execute the decisions of the board the individual trustees can focus more on important decision-making and less on the day-to-day situations like this one.