Every condominium corporation needs rules and policies. But if your condominium board of directors doesn’t carefully think them through or doesn’t implement them properly, they can backfire. Rules that go too far or enforcement that is inconsistent or lax can lead to animosity among residents and can chip away at your condo’s sense of community. How can your board implement rules and policies that won’t cause these types of problems?
For one thing, you can seek assistance from an experienced property management company. A good management company will have the knowledge to help you develop policies that are sound and to effectively communicate your new policies to residents. Furthermore, it can take on the burden of enforcing rules and issuing bylaw and policy violations.
Regardless of whether or not you are currently partnering with a management company, your policies will be more effective if you follow the 5 recommendations below.
- Apply a good dose of common sense.
As your board considers creating a new policy, take a step back to see if its benefits will outweigh any effects it might have on residents’ personal freedom. Will it help support the corporation’s interests, improve resident safety or increase property values? Also, make sure that the motive for adding the policy isn’t based on a personal agenda, community politics or a single incident.
- Get familiar with Alberta condo law and your governing documents.
Any new policy should not conflict with your governing documents or more importantly the Alberta Condominium Property Act. Also, if you can synch it up with what’s written in Alberta statutes or your local laws and ordinances, you’ll have an extra source of validation for the policy and support in enforcing it.
“Before adopting any rule or policy, it’s best to have your corporation’s legal representative look it over,” says Phil Sobkow, community manager with FirstService Residential in Calgary. “This ensures that it doesn’t contradict any laws or anything in your governing documents.”
- Implement appropriate penalties.
Penalties need to fit the “crime.” If you’re dealing with a highly charged issue, check your emotions before adopting the penalties. This will minimize the risk that you might impose penalties that are too harsh. Minor violations – particularly first offenses – do not merit severe penalties. Again, check your governing documents or the law in your area since there may be restrictions on the type of penalties you can impose.
- Be clear when communicating the new policy to residents.
If you want residents to adhere to your new policy, you need to keep it simple and write it clearly. Both the policy itself and the penalties for violating it need to be easy to understand.
Your bylaws may stipulate that certain rules or policies require a vote by unit owners. “Even if a vote isn’t needed, you should still encourage unit owners to provide input,” says Sobkow. “This best practice allows you find out if there is support for the policy or if owners may have legitimate reasons why they don’t think the corporation should adopt it.”
Use a variety of channels to make unit owners aware of the new policy, and ask for assistance from your management company to distribute information. Among the ways you could communicate with residents are through email, community newsletter, social media, community website, bulletin board notices and direct mail. After the policy goes into effect, give residents time to adjust before you issue violation notices.
- Enforce the new policy consistently.
Consistency in how you enforce the policy is crucial. For one thing, it encourages compliance. Owners are more reluctant to follow rules that aren’t applied fairly to everyone. Unfairness can also result in legal action against the board or the corporation.
“When you work with a property management company, your board doesn’t have to handle enforcement,” Sobkow says. “The management company takes on that responsibility, which eliminates the perception that the board might be playing favorites.”
Violations should be addressed with a written violation notice, along with an explanation of the penalties. Residents should have a process by which they can respond to a violation notice, which your governing documents should describe. Remember that residents who feel they haven’t been treated fairly can also seek legal counsel.
Rules and policies aren’t intended to create problems for your condominium corporation. The goal is to improve how your community functions. Be fair and rational when considering the value of adopting new rules, and remember to keep your focus on the success of your community and the happiness of your residents. More than anything, it’s community pride that will most influence how well condo owners abide by the rules.
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