Condominium Rules: Why Clear Communication Matters
Rules & bylaws infographic
For more tips on how to create and communicate sensible rules, download our rules and bylaws infographic.
Clear, concise communications create a successful foundation in any community where residents must follow established rules, regulations, and bylaws. These governing documents are an integral piece to the success of a condominium corporation and must be in place and fairly enforced to help with resident safety. They also prevent unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of units and common elements.
Rules are often used to supplement the bylaws and are easier to create and change, allowing boards to quickly respond to the changing needs of the community. For example, a condominium corporation may have a bylaw that states that unit owners require the condo board’s approval to have a pet. The supplementary rules for that bylaw may outline the types of pets allowed, or how many a unit owner can have at one time.
Establishing realistic condominium rules that need to be upheld that meet the community’s needs can be a challenge. To ensure success, boards must lay an effective groundwork with open communication at its core. Doing this will establish trust between all residents.
Here are some proven tips and best practices to ensure that your condo rules positively impact your community. Putting these practices in place helps strengthen your condominium corporation’s reputation for years to come.
Condominium Rule Tip #1: Identify The “Why”
Effective condo boards understand the importance of staying connected to their residents and working together towards mutual goals. By proactively communicating the “why” behind a rule, a board can ensure that decisions are in line with the community's best interests. At the same time, this will help increase resident satisfaction and property values.
As a board, ensure you answer the question, “What’s the purpose behind our rule?” In other words, why was the rule introduced?
Is it needed because of multiple owner and occupant complaints?
Has a new law or ordinance come up in your area that requires a condo rule?
Will this rule prevent or mitigate potential liability in the community?
Identifying your “why” can be straightforward, and in some cases may require a little more time. Either way it’s critical for effective rule adoption.
Before introducing a new rule, your board, community manager, and management company need to work together to determine why it’s necessary. Once you’ve accomplished that, you need to decide how you will communicate it. A great management company will help you define the purpose of your condo rule and effectively communicate it to residents.
Condominium Rule Tip #2: Communicate the Purpose and Benefits
Once you’ve identified the reason for your condo rule, you must communicate that purpose to owners and tenants. In doing so, you can help them understand the benefits of instituting this rule along with why it will improve the resident experience and property values.
(Reminder: If you can’t easily communicate the policy to residents, the benefits aren’t clear, or it goes against the corporation’s bylaws, the condominium property act, or local laws, take a step back. Ask yourself, is the rule reasonable, necessary, and enforceable? If not, consider reviewing the rule again with your management company.)
When implementing a new rule in the community, remember that they can be opportunities to allow additional activities or exceptions. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many condo corporations relaxed limitations to enable additional activities and experiences for residents.
Creating rules for a condominium corporation requires a delicate balance. Owners want to be able to live their lives without too many rules impeding them. However, living in such close proximity to your neighbours can make that more difficult to do. Things you can do in a single-family home can’t always be allowed in a condo for the betterment of all residents. A perfect example of this would be smoking.
Communicating clearly with residents about the benefits along with the reasoning behind a certain rule gives them an increased level of understanding. That in turn leads to greater compliance and agreement.
If partnered with a professional management company, they will have the resources and technologies to communicate effectively to your community. They will also provide your board with templates and best practices for communicating with residents.
Condominium Rule Tip #3: Explain the Process
Strong, effective communication is the cornerstone of the successful implementation of a new rule. Keeping residents informed and engaged throughout every stage - from conception to enforcement - helps ensure that everyone understands the rule. It also makes it easier for residents to comply without hesitation or confusion.
Explain the process of rule creation and enforcement to the community so that owners know what to expect. This can be done through community newsletters and should be information that is shared on a regular basis.
When the board implements a new rule, amends, or appeals a current rule, they must provide at least 30 days written notice to owners and tenants. That notice needs to be delivered to anyone living in the community as well as any owners who do not live there. The notice should also be posted in high-traffic common areas.
A rule cannot be enforced until 30 days after all written notices have been delivered and posted. In some cases, a rule can be created where notice is not needed, typically these are for rules that address a safety or security concern or an emergency. These types of rules would need to be stopped when the concern no longer exists.
Condo Rule Tip #4: Reinforce the Long-Term Benefits and Value
Even after you’ve communicated the new rule’s purpose and process, ensure you are reinforcing the long-term benefits. Work with your manager and management company on creative ways to communicate the importance of the rule.
You may consider asking a subject matter expert to share how a particular rule might increase property values. This should be done on an ongoing basis so that new owners understand the benefits and value as well. A good management company will help create a solid communication plan and strategy to reinforce the benefits with residents and owners.
The Key to Easily Enforce Condo Rules: Communication
From rule creation to rule enforcement, the key to effective and reasonable rules is communication every step of the way. When owners understand why the corporation has certain rules and what the benefits of them are, it leads to happier residents. Not to mention a stronger community.
Learn how FirstService Residential can support your community in implementing condo policies by contacting us here.