HOA and CONDO Rules – How To Use Rules To Create Harmony

Rules and rules enforcement is a mystery to many HOAs. Many problems arise, and neither the Board nor owners know what to do when the disturbances continue, illegal parking, noise, junk in the yard, disregard for the neighbors, tenant problems, etc. Here is a query I recently received from a manager of many condo associations in a resort area.

Some of my HOA Boards of Directors are recognizing the need to have rules for the well being of homeowners and guests staying at the complexes.  Subjects such as pet restrictions pertaining to homeowners, long-term tenants and transient renters and related HOA liability and common area maintenance are of importance along with restrictions for storage of trailers and boats in common area parking during summer months, motorcycles being maintained and cleaned on the property during motocross events, smoking in the common areas, stacking in transient rental units, etc. are all subjects of contention amongst our membership.  Management has no recourse at the current time other than speaking with violators and cleaning up messes.  I had read an article regarding the importance of an HOA writing and maintaining rules which help all live in harmony and avoid conflict amongst various factions within our HOA membership.  We’re unsure whether a Board of Directors can implement a set of rules without the general membership’s approval by vote.  Your advice in creating and upholding HOA rules would be of great interest and help.  Thank you for your consideration of this subject matter.”

Here are some helpful tips:

The Board does not need to get owner approval to adopt rules unless the bylaws or CC&Rs say otherwise. Some do, most don’t.  Civil Code Section 4350 covers operating rules and the requirements for validity and enforceability which involve notice of owners and a comment period before board approval, but no membership vote. The details are many for the process. One should definitely be aware of these sections before attempting to draft, circulate, or approve rules for an HOA or Condo Association.

The Civil Code does not set rules for associations but the Civil Code 4700 series does have guidance in many areas limiting what a board can do in the area of pets, signs, drought regulation, flags, roofing materials, renting, modifications to a unit to accommodate a disability, marketing restrictions, satellite dishes and the like.

Civil Code Section 4700 specifically incorporates provisions from other areas of the civil code including cc sec. 712 & 713 real estate signs, cc sec. 714 and 714.1 solar energy systems, cc sec. 714.5 modular homes, cc sec. 782, 782.5, & 6150 and sec. 12956.1 of the gov. code -racial restrictions, sec. 12927 of the gov. Code, relating to modification of property to accommodate a disability, and sec. 1597.40 of the health and safety code, relating to the operation of a family day care homes.

If the Board is considering rules in a controversial area, such as parking or banning certain breeds of dogs that are uninsurable for the association, it may want to survey owners first to get their reaction. The board usually is not required to take a membership vote but under the sections noted above for rule setting, a member can petition for a vote on a rule asking that it be set aside and so it is best not to step in the quicksand of going against what the majority of owners favors.

I could go on for days on rules and rules enforcement. There are specific hearing requirements to assure fair treatment for owners and an opportunity to be heard if disciplinary action is to be considered, and fines, and adopting policies is subject to the rules requirement.

There is enough going on in this area that you need to know practically and procedurally to fill more than 100 pages of the law (in plain English) , tips, strategies and forms in 5+  Primers which are available on my website. The forms Primer that offers letters, sample policies and forms useful in expanding this area in your HOA.  And there is also a book available called THE DAVIS STIRLING ACT IN PLAIN ENGLISH where you can get not only the law, but comments on the nuances, purpose and legislators intentions on the laws.

And there are also many other publications that touch in this area available on the site, including 3 other books.

It is best to know that you should get professional help in drafting rules or reviewing rules that the Board would like to propose. That is because this is an area where the law keeps expanding and if rules are not procedurally as well as legislatively and politically correct, they can backfire on the association in the form of political backlash, lawsuits (such as in the areas of discrimination), or pushback.

Visit the publications page at  www.californiacondoguru.com  to find the right resource(s) for you to get on track. You can do a lot of work yourself with the affordable publications, and save a lot of money in attorney work if you get your drafting started on the right foot! And you may submit generic short questions through the website on specific subjects. It is much easier for me to give specific feedback when the query is on one topic or subtopic rather than overview, like how can we enforce rules? Enforcement starts from a strong foundation and that foundation is created when the policies are properly set forth and adopted, and then it makes the job of enforcement much easier, because rules on paper are harder to argue with than the President of the Association. Once adopted, it is also critical to understand the value of consistent enforcement. All this makes the job easier. We are a society of entitlement, and that can complicate calling people on their behavior, but still, many try to live by the rules.

And do not, I repeat not, leave a review of the CC&Rs AND Bylaws out of the equation in drafting. Some boards seem to think the only purpose of these documents  is to keep the shelf from getting too dusty. If you cannot understand them, it is time to consider a restatement project. It is big and time consuming, but also will bring clarity to everything a board has to do.

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2 Responses to HOA and CONDO Rules – How To Use Rules To Create Harmony
  1. Joe Public
    May 25, 2017 | 3:44 pm

    The property manager has prohibited me from getting a delivery left at my front door, but allows my neighbor to. The manager has stated that I am required to be home at the time of delivery or pick it up from the lobby (a very heavy 5-gal. bottle of water). Policy is that the lobby attendant (LA) is supposed to call the resident when deliveries arrive. They didn’t call me and didn’t even notify me that I had a delivery, period. The manager and staff lied about having contacted me, and the board backs them up. I asked for proof of the contact (phone record). Management does not respond and does not provide a phone record. The board says they are not required to show proof and backed up management and staff. The delivery does not violate any fire code (verified by the fire department) or any known CC&R rules. I asked both management and the board for the reasoning why I’m not permitted to receive my water delivery the same way my neighbor is allowed. Neither the board nor management has responded. I’m being singled out for selective enforcement. What can I do?

    • Beth Grimm
      May 29, 2017 | 1:37 am

      This is a quandary for sure. If you want help I do consultations, write demand letters and help owners get fair treatment. However, I don’t give individual advice on a specific situation without establishing an attorney-client relationship. Better for the practical and ethical concerns and need for a conflicts check as well. There is information on my website about consultations. http://www.californiacondoguru.com