Establishing Association Rules

Community association living is a lifestyle and it is a choice. The problem is, not all associations are created equal and many members do not read and/or understand their governing documents. Establishing rules that balance architectural uniformity with a desire for personal expression is an ongoing challenge for any association. The way in which you approach rule making and breaking - will speak volumes about the spirit of your association. To set the right tone, remember these key points:

There must be a need for the rule.

Sounds simple, but how many times is a rule put in place because one set of neighbors can't get along or someone's grandchild acts up at the pool? Members don't want their neighbor to know who is making a complaint so they pressure the association to intervene. Ask yourself if the issue at hand warrants the establishment of a community wide rule. Could a private conversation or carefully written letter of inquiry from the association better serve the situation?

Never adopt a rule under pressure.

Take time to think things through and look at the situation from all angles. Try to predict the consequences of any rule you want to establish. If it's December 1 and you don't have your holiday decoration guidelines in place, wait until next year and use this year as a learning experience. Consider soliciting input from the membership. What do they consider reasonable, based on the decorations being displayed?

Rules must be enforceable.

If you are not willing to enforce a rule unilaterally and consistently, don't bother adopting it. You'll only spread ill will and expose the association to potential discrimination lawsuits.

Base rules on proper authority.

Create rules that are consistent with existing federal, state and local laws as well as your own governing documents. If you not sure if you have the power to make a rule, consult with the association's attorney.

Rules should be reasonable.

The object of any rule is compliance. The vast majority of your community should be more than willing to abide by the rule.

Rules should be simple to understand.

State its purpose clearly and concisely. Make a rule easy to understand by avoiding legal sounding terms. Consider this example: "No signs placed by unit owners or persons other than the association, window displays or advertising, except for the name plate or sign, not exceeding nine square inches in area, on the main door to each unit and on each mailbox, with the unit number in a form approved by the association, will be maintained or permitted on any part of the common-interest community or any unit." Huh? Simply restated, this rule says: Residents may not place signs on the common areas or in their windows; however, they may place signs that do not exceed nine square inches on their front door or mailbox.

Adopted rules should be published.

Once adopted, distribute the rule to the membership. Be sure to include the date the rule was adopted as well as the date the rule becomes effective.

Source: Association Times
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