8 Tips for Establishing New Policies in your Building
Setting policy is one of the most critical functions that condominium and cooperative boards can perform. The board must be clear – and clearly united – on the policy being crafted and then effectively communicate that policy to all residents. Whether the policy is about designated smoking areas or amenity usage, the guiding principles for creating good policy and successfully enforcing it are the same.
For confusion to be avoided, it is essential that everyone involved—board members, residents, and the management team—have a clear understanding of who is responsible for policy creation, enforcement, and compliance. Otherwise, there can be confusion as to who is responsible for issuing a violation notice versus creating the policy and establishing the consequences.
In all cases, condominium and cooperative boards are responsible for establishing all new rules and policies in the building. A knowledgeable property management company can work with that board to recommend effective and equitable policies to enhance property values and improve the quality of residents’ lives. The professional management company and staff are then responsible for implementing policies, as well as documenting and enforcing violations. When a policy is announced, it is important to take the opportunity to remind all residents of the roles that each various agent plays in the process and the reasons for the creation of the policy creating a new policy.
Consider these eight principles when creating and enforcing new policy.
1. Let common sense set the tone.It is essential that all new policies and rules be designed around a specific goal. If a rule doesn’t achieve something concrete, the rule should be reevaluated and the initial complaint should be reviewed for underlying causes.
It is important to be mindful of local laws and ordinances and mirror them when appropriate. It can give the policy more validity and another avenue of enforcement.
When crafting rules, remember to keep the penalties in line with the policy that has been violated. A building might choose to be flexible for a period of time after the rule is rolled out. A friendly reminder followed by an official violation notice is generally issued before penalization.
2. Don’t complicate rules unnecessarily.All rules should be well defined and easy to follow. They should never result in standards that are difficult or impossible for residents to meet. The penalties for breaking a rule should be expressed as clearly as the rule itself.
3. Communicate clearly.When contemplating a new policy, consider asking for resident feedback. How important is this issue to the building? The next step is to identify areas of pushback and address them appropriately. Once there is a consensus and the policy is created, the rule may need to be voted on and added to the bylaws and/or the building’s governing documents. The adoption of a new rule may not always require a vote and is dependent on the building’s governing documents. It is recommended that an attorney review all rules before implementation.
If approved, the new policy should be communicated through all means available, social media, emails, posted signs, and newsletters. It is important that all residents are aware of the new rule and have ample time to comply before violation notices are issued. Residents cannot be expected to abide by a rule that they do not know about.
4. Perspective is important.Knee-jerk responses are called that for a reason. They are an immediate instinct, especially in the face of a problem, and often make a situation worse. It’s important to look at the big picture and not over-penalize minor infractions especially for first-time offenders.
5. Allow for exceptions.Common sense and compassion are both at play when a board recognizes that not every policy works for every resident in every situation. Leave room for personal judgment when appropriate, and allow for leniency when warranted. It is suggested that boards create a defined policy that addresses special circumstances and document those exceptions in meeting minutes or a resolution.
6. Consistently enforce violations.The rules must apply to everyone the same way and must be fairly enforced. Residents who feel like they won’t be treated fairly will have little motivation to comply with a policy. Your professional property management company can help enforce policies in the right way and follow up on a timely basis.
It is important that the resident that has committed the violation be given proper written notice of that violation, along with a detailed description of the consequences. It is considered proper protocol to give the resident the opportunity to respond with the reason for their actions.
If your building hasn’t been enforcing policies, you should start right away. You can emphasize the importance of the rules by sending a notice to residents that all policy enforcement will begin on a certain date. If necessary, include information about any specific polices of special concern, as well as the steps of the violation process.
7. Beware of the anonymous complaint.People who make credible complaints are willing to stand by their words. Until it is verified, consider a complaint from an unverified or unnamed source, gossip. There is no way to know if the complaint is justified or malicious in motivation. As with any complaint, investigate and verify it independently before taking action. It is suggested that boards draft a resident complaint form that includes the person’s name, address, and signature.
8. Do a regular rule check.Does a rule that was created five years ago, still make sense? Is it still needed? Has it been rendered obsolete by new state legislation? Address those questions and make updates or eliminate policies as needed.
Follow these guidelines when creating, implementing and enforcing new policy in your building and the process will run smoothly. For more information on how a professional management company and communication tools can assist your building, contact FirstService Residential, New York’s leading management company.