Whether you serve on the board of an Atlanta high-rise with an underground structure or a single-family home association in Alpharetta with street and garage spaces, most associations are faced with parking issues. From guests parking in resident spaces to residents parking in other residents’ spaces, to commercial vehicles parked in the community overnight, parking challenges are at times inconvenient…and often contentious.

Here are some common violations:

  • Overnight parking in a prohibited location
  • Vehicles leaking fluid
  • Unregistered or expired license plates
  • Parking in handicapped spots
  • Parking in fire lanes
  • RV and boat parking
  • Parking on landscaping
  • Prohibited street parking
  • Inoperable vehicles

Parking policies that are clearly written and communicated can help minimize parking challenges and their repercussions, including violations, fines and towing. Keeping residents informed about critical policies may also assist to strengthen resident-board relations. Residents are more likely to follow the rules when they comprehend them (and, perhaps more importantly, the why behind parking policies). They are also less likely to be frustrated.

How do you make sure your association's parking policies are fair and simple to follow? Here are 6 essential questions to ask before you create or enforce parking policies:

1. Does your association have jurisdiction on the roads in your community?

Before you create or execute a new parking policy, be sure you know who has control over your community's roads. Your community cannot override local or state rules addressing the usage of public roads. You may not be able to enforce fines or tow vehicles illegally parked on a public road, even if it runs through your community. In this case, you'll need to report the matter to the city or county that has jurisdiction over the public route. You can request that the vehicle be towed immediately if it poses a hazard to a resident's health, safety or welfare, blocks a fire hydrant, or is parked in a handicapped spot. Your association attorney and management company can help you determine what jurisdiction you have over the roads in your community.

2. Are there any state or local laws that may impact your association’s parking rules?

Before adopting HOA parking rules, always check state and local laws. Your state or municipality may have laws governing how your community handles parking and how violations are enforced. A notification can be given by speaking with the owner, writing to them, or displaying a prominent notice on the vehicle. Consult your association's attorney if you're not sure which local laws apply to your association's rules and regulations. Your management company should help keep you and your board abreast of the latest local laws and ordinances. FirstService Residential has a vast network of resources and keeps up to date with the latest federal, state and local legislation that could impact the associations we serve.

3. Are the parking rules in your governing documents easy to understand?

Residents may be confused about what constitutes a violation if your governing documents do not clearly explain the parking language. At the same time, an overly strict parking policy, like any harsh policy, can cause headaches for everyone. Make sure your parking policy contains the following to save your residents and fellow board members a lot of aggravation:

  • A list of what is and is not allowed, including parking areas that are prohibited by law and rules specific to your association. For example,
    • Handicapped spots
    • Loading zones
    • Fire hydrants
    • Guest parking
    • Vehicle restrictions
  • Authorization for your board to grant exceptions and waivers at its discretion
  • Your association’s right to enforce parking regulations and levy fines
  • Information around towing, including the association’s authorization to tow, reasonable notification procedures and the owner’s responsibility for towing-related expenses, if applicable
If any of these details are missing, you may need to amend your parking rules. If your current policy is no longer compliant with current state and local laws, you may need to update it. You may also need to update your current policy if parking issues have emerged that aren’t addressed by the existing policy or if changes to your community require additional or modified restrictions (if you have recently built a new recreational space that requires limited or hourly parking, for example). As always, make sure you involve your association’s attorney to ensure that you’re following the law and fairly enforcing the rules.

4. Do you frequently communicate parking policies?

Your association’s governing documents should be updated with the latest parking policies so that residents can refer back to them, and you should also communicate them regularly. As with most information, “out of sight, out of mind” often holds true. Rather than relying on homeowners to check the regulations and advise their renters and guests, your board should reinforce your parking policy on a regular basis. Send email reminders, display the policy in a prominent location on the property and on your community website, address in a community meeting, or add an informative item in your newsletter.

“The best strategy in policymaking is to be proactive,” said Debby Wolf, regional director for FirstService Residential. “The management team can help the board anticipate all possible situations and create rules to handle these; communicate clearly and often to the residents; and ensure the staff is trained to enforce fairly and without any bias.”

Get to know the most effective communication methods for your community by reading about policy communication best practices and working closely with your association management company.

5. Are you equipped with the support you need to assist with parking policies?

A professional property management company with a local presence should be knowledgeable and can share best practices from other communities. This firm should provide experienced, qualified and well-trained staff to assist your association in enforcing parking rules. The management team can also assist by planning and executing a communication strategy to ensure all residents are aware of the parking policy.

6. Do you fairly and consistently enforce parking policies?

Maintain a positive reputation with residents and business owners by consistently enforcing parking laws and avoiding bias. When it comes to following policies, don't give special treatment to certain residents or board members. This behavior can cause resentment among residents and harm your reputation. It can even lead to discrimination lawsuits in a worst scenario.

However, while fair and consistent enforcement is crucial, there may be extenuating circumstances that can affect your ability or decision to enforce (e.g., emergency situations, natural disasters, etc.). FirstService Residential has worked with associations in various crisis situations and has helped associations determine the best course of action to take. Effective communication in these instances is especially important.

Having a good parking policy in place and making sure that your residents understand it can minimize parking problems and help maintain a safe environment for your community. Making sure you communicate it effectively and enforce it fairly will also go a long way in maintaining your reputation with residents and potential owners. For more information on how a property management company can assist in minimizing parking challenges, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company.
Wednesday June 01, 2022