Creating Effective Condo Rules: A Guideline for Success
When living the condominium lifestyle, you are choosing to live near other people. Everyone has a different version of what "being a good neighbour" means, which is why community rules are created and enforced.
These rules are not put in place for any reason other than maintaining order in the condominium. Without them, residents may decide to do whatever they please, which can lead to tension with other residents.
If you are working with a property management company, this is where they can step in and assist. The board's primary responsibility is first to create the community rules, but the property management company can help guide the board through that process. Once the rules are established, the property manager will help enforce them. It helps when both parties are aligned throughout the process by setting the right number of rules or policies to have a peaceful community.
With this proper balance in rulemaking, it will play an instrumental role in protecting community value and goodwill. To help string together effective community rules, we have some guidelines to help you do that.
Use common sense over emotions
Do not create rules for the sake of it, or to fulfill a personal agenda. When there are too many rules, you restrict the freedom residents have and unreasonably limit their activities. The aim when creating policies should always be to preserve home values and resident safety. Avoid creating stringent rules as a response to a single incident. If a certain type of issue becomes common place, then it’s worth considering creating a policy to address it.
Familiarize yourself with your governing documents and Alberta Condo Law
You should reference the Condominium Property Act when creating new condo rules or amending existing ones to ensure they fall in line with the act. Syncing community rules with the Property Act and local laws provide you with an extra source of validation and will make supporting the enforcement of the policy easier. It’s also beneficial to have the corporation’s lawyer review any condo rules you are creating or revising.
Be clear and straightforward
The rules should be clear and easy to follow for compliance's sake. Residents should be able to understand precisely what is set out with no confusion and they need to be easily accessible to everyone in the community.
Communication is fundamental
Residents can’t follow rules they don’t know exist, which is why communicating new or amended condo rules is essential. The property manager can ensure that proper communication methods are used to communicate new or amended condo rules. Make use of multiple communication tools such as email, a community newsletter, and bulletin board notices to ensure all residents receive the message in a timely manner. When implementing new rules, provide a grace period before you begin enforcing them so all residents can adjust.
Evaluate the condo rules on a regular basis
Needs change in the community as do local laws and trends so while condo rules may seem like something that is set in stone that’s not necessarily the case. Best practice is to review the policies on an annual basis to make sure they are still relevant to the current times and community. If an existing rule seems to have little to no effect with the residents, the choice can be made to update the rule to address this or eliminate it. The best time to review existing condo rules is during the Annual General Meeting as you can easily get feedback from fellow residents. Once reviewed, make sure your governing documents have been updated to reflect any changes.
Have a protocol for broken rules
Once a resident has broken a rule, notify them of their infraction. Depending on the infraction nature, you can let them off with a warning, especially if it is a new rule. You should be firm in your tone regarding non-compliance (such a pet rule infraction), including the consequences for further infractions. If there is an explanation from the resident, try to hear the story objectively.
Do not make impulsive reactions whenever a problem arises. Any unique problem requires a unique solution. The best course of action is to focus on understanding and perspective when enforcement is needed. For goodwill, a mutual agreement is what is most desired, but if that is not the direction it seems to be heading, both sides can choose mediation or legal solutions.
To help guide you, a property management company will have the knowledge and experience to help your board enforce rules the right way and will often look after enforcement for you as they understand the difficulty for board members to enforce rules with fellow community members.
Reject anonymous communication
In some cases, you will hear complaints from unverified or unidentified sources. Ignore them at all costs. Any credible claim will be someone who openly discusses the situation in person. Much like there are processes for dealing with broken rules, there are proper processes for lodging complaints that residents need to follow. Those processes should also be clearly communicated to residents.
Be sure your rule is a solution, not another problem
Rules and policies are meant to adapt to the requirements of the community. As requirements change, rules need to be updated or created to address those changes but if a rule results in a bigger mess than what you started with, it’s not a good rule.
Rules and polices are never meant to create problems, they are in place to help you community function better, something that all residents can benefit from. Consider these tips when you are formulating your rules and policies, and you'll see a more harmonious community. For more on the creation and enforcement of rules, contact FirstService Residential, North America's leading association management company.