How to Create Policies for Your Condo Association—Without Making Enemies
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No matter where you live—Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray or some other part of Alberta—having a great condo community requires having good rules. Two factors that are crucial for accomplishing this are clarity and sensibility. Your condo board must be clear about the value of any policies it wants to create. It must communicate these new policies effectively to residents. And it must ensure that those policies serve a genuine purpose for the community.
In addition, everyone involved, including board members, residents and the management team, needs to understand who is responsible for the various roles that are part of policy creation, enforcement and compliance. At times, residents may misunderstand who is responsible for issuing a violation notice versus creating the policy and establishing the consequences for violating it.
In all cases, the condominium board, which is elected by the homeowners, is responsible for establishing new rules and policies for your condo corporation. A knowledgeable property management company can recommend effective and equitable policies to help your condo board achieve its goals and build a cohesive and appealing community. However, the management company and onsite staff do not actually create policies. They are only responsible for implementing them, enforcing the rules and documenting violations.
Whether you are addressing overnight guest parking, designated smoking areas, amenity usage or approved flooring, the basic process for creating good policies and enforcing them successfully are the same. Consider these eight steps to establish reasonable community policies that won’t turn your board into the enemy.
- Apply common sense.
Be mindful of local laws and ordinances, and mirror them when appropriate. It can give the policy more validity and provide another avenue of enforcement. All new policies should be vetted by your community manager to make sure that they don’t run afoul of existing laws or the association’s existing rules.
When crafting rules, remember to keep penalties in line with the severity of the violation. Consider leniency for a certain period of time when you first implement a rule. A progressive system that starts with a friendly reminder, followed by a written warning and then an official violation notice and penalty is one way to go.
- Keep it simple.
- Don’t go to extremes.
- Communicate clearly.
Once you have built consensus and created the policy, you need to add it to your condo corporation’s governing documents. You should then communicate the new policy through emails, posted signs, social media, community newsletters and other means to make sure that all residents are aware of it and have ample time to comply before violation notices are issued. A quality property management company, such as FirstService Residential, will have a system in place to assist with these vital resident communications.
- Enforce violations swiftly, fairly and consistently.
Residents who commit violations should receive proper written notice of that violation, along with a clearly detailed description of the consequences. They must have an opportunity to respond with their side of the story if desired, following the process already established by your condo corporation. Keep in mind that they have a right to legal counsel if they feel they are being treated unreasonably.
If your condo corporation hasn’t been enforcing policies at all, it’s not too late! You can revitalize your community and your rules at any point. Start by sending a notice to residents (but run it by your community manager first). Let them know that you will begin enforcing the rules on a specific date. Include a reminder of the policies and the process for addressing violations.
- Remember that the exception IS the rule.
- Beware of the anonymous complaint.
- Do a regular rule check.
The process of creating rules and policies will be a smoother one if you keep all of these concepts in mind when creating, implementing and enforcing new policies for your condominium corporation. For more information on how a professional condo management team with the right communication tools can assist your corporation, contact FirstService Residential, Alberta’s leading property manager.