A female property manager and board member shake hands in agreement of the community rulesAlthough effective community rule enforcement can be challenging, ensuring that residents abide by a community’s policies can actually improve the resident experience, and even translate into higher property values.

Read on to learn 6 tips to ensure your community’s rules are clear and easy to follow.

Tip #1. Explain why the rules and policies exist

Sharing the reasons why the rules exist is crucial to compliance. Take the time to ensure that everyone in your community knows the what, how and why behind your policy. Sharing the why means explaining the rule, why it was created, and how it will benefit your community going forward. Remind your residents that rules aren't established arbitrarily. They can arise out of a need in the community.

Say, for example, you notice more and more residents are using their balconies for storage in your community, which has become a safety concern. Storing large items on balconies can exceed their weight capacity and lead to structural damage or collapse. In this instance, the rule you create should explain the risk – that storing large items on a balcony can cause it to collapse – and how forbidding furniture storage will help keep residents safe. The language you use to explain why the policy exists doesn't have to be complex; in fact, it should be quite the opposite! You just need to explain why the policy was instituted and its importance.

Here's an example of how a board of a condo association might explain why using gas, electric, and charcoal grills isn't permitted on balconies:

As summer approaches, we want to remind everyone of the Florida Fire Prevention Code prohibiting grilling on condominium balconies due to fire risk. Should a grill catch fire, it can spread quickly to neighboring units. While we understand the appeal of grilling, we must recognize the potential hazards and risks it poses to our community. This policy helps ensure the safety and well-being of all residents and safeguards against potential fires in the community.  

Tip #2. Make rule compliance clear

Communicate what residents need to do to adhere to the policy. For example, if you've implemented a new rule or changed the parameters of an existing policy, you will want to explain exactly how to follow it. 

Tip #3. Create a transparent rule enforcement plan

Residents shouldn't be surprised by how you enforce your policies. They should know well in advance what happens when a policy is violated. They should also understand potential fines and how they will be collected. Create a step-by-step enforcement plan that outlines the entire process.  An easy-to-follow, transparent enforcement plan should look something like this:

Step #1. Resident in violation of a policy receives a courtesy letter explaining the details of the situation and the policy violated. The notice should also include a picture of the violation (if possible) and a deadline to respond.

Step #2. Resident receives a violation letter, providing details on the policy, the offense, any fines required and a deadline to respond.

Step #3. If resident doesn’t respond by the required deadline, a second violation letter should be sent along with a new response deadline.  

Step. #4. After three communications, the issue is escalated to the association's attorney or violation committee. A solid property management company will work together with your board to help craft an enforcement plan that’s easy to understand.

“We believe in fostering a collaborative approach with the boards we work with,” said Edwin Lugo, vice president at FirstService Residential. “We work with them to ensure policies and regulations are easy to understand while keeping the community's unique needs and preferences in mind.”

Tip #4. Show consistency when enforcing the rules  

Effective policies require follow-through. Your association should enforce the rules and do it consistently. By occasionally following through on fines or enforcing existing rules, you put your association’s reputation at risk among residents and the community. Moreover, you don't want residents to ignore the rules believing there will be no consequences if they break them.

While consistent enforcement is critical, extenuating circumstances may affect your ability or decision to enforce the rules, such as in an emergency. The right management team can help you navigate these situations.  

“Sometimes, certain situations are difficult to assess and the solution might not be apparent,” said Alyson Theale, vice president at FirstService Residential. “Our experienced team is ready to help your board determine the best course of action when things aren’t clear.”  

Tip #5. Set a good example

Remember, being a volunteer board member does not entitle you to special privileges. The rules and policies of the community you serve also apply to you. It is your job to demonstrate what following the rules looks like.  Giving yourself or a fellow board member leeway may be tempting. However, remember that residents look to you and your board to set an example.  Not following the rules can hurt your reputation and even prevent others from following those policies. Your association could also be subject to accusations of preferential treatment.

Tip #6. Regularly review and evaluate your community’s policies

Even if you have a strong community vision in place, things can change. Your association's policies from 5 years ago may no longer apply. That’s why it's imperative to review your community's policies annually. When reviewing them, work with your association’s attorney and property management company and ask the following questions:

  • Is this policy invalidated by any laws passed by our state legislature?

  • Is this policy improving the lifestyles of our residents or enhancing our reputation?

  • In the next year or two, will this policy become outdated?

  • Does this policy remain relevant for residents and owners?

  • Do current circumstances (e.g., local emergency, natural disaster, crisis) call for policy changes?

If you revise or eliminate existing policies, communicate these changes to your residents. Successful policies and happy residents are built on the foundation of clear communication from board members.

Rules and regulations enhance not only your community but also your residents’ lives. Enforcing the rules is key to maintaining your community’s property values and residents’ safety. Remember it’s crucial to be fair when drafting new rules, to ensure the rules are clear and easy to follow, and to enforce these rules consistently.  For more information about how we can help your board with rule enforcement, contact FirstService Residential.

Wednesday August 09, 2023