Rule Enforcement During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Policy enforcement is a challenge for any community, especially during these unprecedented times. No one wants to be the bad guy, but the safety and well-being of residents and staff members remain the top priority for association boards. We understand that ensuring compliance can be stressful. Whether your board is dealing with emergency rules and restrictions or general community policies, here are some things to consider when addressing change in your community.
Maintaining good relationships with residents is critical when implementing new guidelines in your community – but especially so when grappling with a pandemic. One way to accomplish this is to identify and understand how people naturally respond to rules. Rule enforcement is an important part of running your community; if you learn the styles of rules adaptation, you’ll be better equipped to help residents adapt to the changing environment.
According to Heather Saban, director of organizational development at FirstService Residential, “There are three types of rule responses: the rule enforcer, the rule breaker and the rule follower”. Interacting with each, requires different tactics and approaches.
• When working with rule enforcers, you want to use their strengths to help the community. Invite them to participate in any projects that require structure and organization.
• When working with rule followers, communicate with them regularly and do not take them for granted or ignore their concerns.
• When working with rule breakers, be respectful and try to find a common ground. Always be open, listen and seek to understand.
Whether you are interacting with a rule enforcer, rule breaker or rule follower, you must be able to find common ground with each profile type.
In addition to understanding how residents react to change, it is more important than ever to maintain trust by keeping them informed through clear and consistent communication.
Communicate with your residents
When enforcing social distancing or COVID-related rules, make sure you reinforce rules with clear signs and postings throughout the community. Keep in mind that these rules are new and change often, so be prepared for residents to need a bit of time as they adjust.
A good property manager will work with the board to ensure that proper safety protocols are followed and clearly explained.
Generally speaking, when enforcing policies, explain why the policy is being implemented, what its positive impact is on the community (improving lifestyles, increasing safety, enhancing property values) and the consequences for non-compliance. It takes more than one communication to reach everyone, and you should use all possible channels to do so: newsletters or e-newsletters, social media, your community’s website, email and postings in common areas.
Consistency is extremely important. “Being selective about which rules you follow and enforce leads to the rule not having any real weight,” said Edwin Lugo, vice president at FirstService Residential. “The end result? Eventually, you will have to waive the rule or start grandfathering in people for whom you've made exceptions. You want to avoid that as much as possible, so consistency is key.”
The board can create goodwill and lead by example when it comes to following policies.
As leaders in your community, you want to ensure that your association is functioning at its best to protect the health and safety of every resident. In this ever-changing environment, always consult with your association’s attorney to review state statutes and governing documents before implementing any changes.