Does the Condo or HOA Board Control Parking Spaces?

Here is an interesting dilemma in a question posed by a reader that I had not yet heard about parking space use in an HOA:

“Does an HOA have any easement rights in a situation where part of an individual owner’s parking space has been used for storage of shopping carts? This storage has been continually ongoing for approximately 20 years, and all residents of the HOA have had open access and rights to use the carts all during that time. A prior owner agreed to allowing this use of part of the space and then another owner bought and allowed it for several years, but then without warning removed the HOA’s sign and the carts. It is difficult to find another good place in the HOA garage for the carts because of space limitations. So, does the Association have any rights in this situation?”
Assuming there is no easement specified on the deed for this parking space, I do not believe that any specific legal easement rights have been created by the mere act of using the area for the carts. I believe the answer would be in the governing documents of the association because that is where the authority of the board and rights of the owners would be specified, and if the matter arises to a legal dispute, there are a lot of factors that might affect the ultimate decision of a judge (hopefully it won’t come to that).
It is likely that owners are entitled to an assigned parking space and it is also likely that the association has some specific authority to assign, and also to impose rules on the use of the parking spaces. If there is room in the designated parking space for the carts, and use of the space does not put this owner at a disadvantage then it may be acceptable to designate space for  the carts. The parking space is common area and the Board usually has pretty specific authority to control the common area. However, if storage of the carts in an owner’s space is detrimental in some way to that owner, or puts the owner at a distinct disadvantage that other owners do not suffer, then the owner’s rights might prevail. The fact that the area was used the same way for years could have some bearing but I do not know of a case to cite since it appears we are talking about common area which is not subject to the same law as privately owned property. I think that a judge would look at all these things.
I would advise exploring why the owner moved the carts – and then see if whatever problem arose or that the owner perceived could be resolved in some way satisfactorily to the owner. If the matter cannot be resolved amicably and it were to become a legal battle, and the owner had a good reason, I might tend to think he or she would have a good chance in court. On the other hand, if he or she was just being contrary, it could go the other way.
I do not believe the owner had an unfettered right to remove the association’s sign or the carts from the common area without permission to do so; however, more details as to why it occurred might shed more light on whether this action would rightly be subject to disciplinary action of some kind.
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