A female property manager and board member shake hands in agreement of the community rulesAlthough community rule enforcement can be challenging, ensuring that residents abide by a community’s policies can improve the resident experience, and even translate into higher property values.

Follow these 6 tips to learn to effectively craft and enforce your community’s rules.

Tip #1. Explain why the community rules and policies exist

Sharing the reasons why the rules exist is crucial to compliance. Make sure everyone in your community knows what, how, and why your policy is in place. You should explain why the rule was created and how it will benefit your community. Residents should also be reminded that rules aren't set arbitrarily. They can arise out of a need in the community.

Say, for example, residents in your community are storing heavy furniture on their balconies, which is dangerous. (A balcony that is overloaded with large items could collapse or suffer structural damage.) The rule you create should explain the danger posed by storing heavy items on a balcony, as well as the benefits of prohibiting furniture storage. The language you use to explain why the policy exists doesn’t have to be complex; in fact, it should be quite the opposite! You just need to explain why and how the policy was instituted.

Here's an example of how a condo association board might explain why using electric, gas and charcoal grills isn't permitted on balconies:

As summer approaches, we want to remind everyone of the fire safety code prohibiting grilling on condominium balconies due to fire risk. Should a grill catch fire, it can spread quickly to neighboring units. While we understand the appeal of grilling, we must recognize the potential hazards and risks it poses to our community. This policy helps ensure the safety and well-being of all residents and safeguards against potential fires in the community.  

Tip #2. Make it clear how to comply with the rules

Communicate what residents need to do to adhere to the policy. If you change the parameters of an existing policy or implement a new rule, you should explain how to follow it. 

Tip #3. Ensure that the enforcement plan is transparent

The way you enforce your policies shouldn't surprise residents. If a policy is violated, they should know what will happen. They should also understand potential fines and how they will be collected. You can accomplish this by developing an easy-to-follow, step-by-step enforcement plan. Here is an example:

Step #1. Resident in violation of a policy receives a courtesy letter explaining the details of the situation and the policy violated. The notice should also include a picture of the violation (if possible) and a deadline to respond.

Step #2. Resident receives a violation letter, providing details on the policy, the offense, any fines required and a deadline to respond.

Step #3. If resident doesn’t respond by the required deadline, a second violation letter should be sent along with a new response deadline.

Step. #4. After three communications, the issue is escalated to the association's attorney or violation committee. The right property management company can work with your board to develop an easy-to-understand enforcement plan.

“If done correctly, a consistent and fair rule enforcement plan will positively impact your community,” said Danny Ellis, president at FirstService Residential. “Our team of seasoned professionals will work with your board to tailor a well-crafted plan to meet your community’s specific needs.”

Tip #4. Show consistency when enforcing the rules 

Follow-through is essential to effective policy enforcement. It is important to enforce policies consistently and fairly to maintain a solid reputation with residents and owners. Occasionally following through on fines or failing to enforce existing rules puts your association’s reputation at risk among residents and the community. Furthermore, you don't want residents to ignore the rules believing there will be no consequences if they do.

While consistent enforcement is critical, extenuating circumstances may affect your ability or decision to enforce the rules, such as in an emergency. You can navigate these situations with the help of the right management company.

"When faced with a challenging situation such as an emergency, it can be tough to find the right solution," said Jeff Musselman, vice president at FirstService Residential. "Our experienced management team can guide you when it's difficult to assess situations due to unforeseen circumstances.”

Tip #5. Set a good example

It is important to remember that being a volunteer board member does not entitle you to special privileges. Your job is to demonstrate what it means to follow the rules, meaning you are also subject to the rules and policies of the community you serve. Giving yourself or a fellow board member leeway may be tempting, but remember that residents rely on you and your board to set an example. Not following the rules can hurt your reputation and even prevent others from following those policies.   

Tip #6. Review and evaluate your community's policies regularly

Things sometimes change – even if you have a clear vision for your community. It's possible that your association's policies from two years ago no longer apply. Therefore, you should review your community's policies with your association's attorney and property management company regularly. When conducting your review, ask the following questions:

  • Do current circumstances (e.g., local emergency, natural disaster, crisis) call for policy changes?

  • In the next year or two, will this policy become outdated?

  • Is this policy invalidated by any laws passed by our state legislature?

  •  Is this policy improving the lifestyles of our residents or enhancing our reputation?

  • Does this policy remain relevant for residents and owners?

Communicate with your residents if you revise or eliminate existing policies. Successful policies and happy residents are built on clear communication from board members.

Rules and regulations enhance your community and residents’ lives. Properly enforcing the rules is essential to ensuring your residents' safety and your community’s property values. Remember, it’s crucial to be fair when drafting new rules, to ensure the rules are clear and easy to follow, and to enforce these rules consistently.  For more information about how we can help your board with rule enforcement, contact FirstService Residential.

Wednesday August 09, 2023