Four Tips for successful community association policy enforcement
Nobody wants to be responsible for the task of ensuring all the community association rules are being followed. However, having realistic rules that are fairly enforced not only helps your association run smoothly, but can also improve the overall resident experience.
So how does a board enforce policies in a way that is fair, polite, and doesn’t create conflict between you and the community?
Create realistic rules for your community association
To have a chance at being successful in enforcing association policies, you need to make sure they’re realistic. If a rule is unclear or hard to follow, chances are it won’t be followed. When you in the process of creating new policies, there are important questions to ask before the rule is implemented. When you know a rule is easy to interpret and follow, you’re making it easier for that rule to be enforced.
4 Tips for community association policy enforcement
When it comes to policy enforcement, as a board member it can be a difficult situation to be in. As a member of the association, you want what’s best for the community. The rules are designed to do that and help create a harmonious environment.
However, you’re enforcing rules that impact your neighbors, and in many cases friends. The last thing you want to do is sour relationships by being a stickler.
The good news is that the task of policy enforcement shouldn’t fall entirely on your shoulders. Ultimately, it’s your association management company’s job to enforce the rules.
With that in mind, it’s important to partner with your association management company and follow these four tips for healthy policy enforcement:
Let’s take a closer look at each tip.
For policy compliance, communication and education are key. Everyone in your association, from new to long-time residents, needs to know the ‘what, how, and why’ of your policy.
What is the policy?
Explain what the policy is and what it does. For example: Our association has now adopted a no smoking policy. Smoking is no longer permitted in common areas.
How is the policy followed?
Give a thorough explanation of what residents need to do (or not do) to follow the policy. For example: All homeowners, residents, and guests must not smoke cigarettes, cigars, or any tobacco or marijuana products (including e-cigarettes and vapes) in common areas or within 100 feet of residences.
Why is the policy important?
For ease of compliance, reinforce the benefits of the policy and what it will do to help or improve the community. For example: Having a no smoking policy in place will enhance the resident experience (exposing individuals to less second-hand smoke) and improve our reputation with potential buyers, leading to enhanced property values.
Work with your management company to communicate the rules. Use multiple channels like newsletters, social media, your community’s website, emails, and announcements in common areas. This will ensure all residents get the message.
2. Stay consistent
Consistent and fair community association policy enforcement is critical. No one wants to be a part of an association where certain residents or board members get special privileges when it comes to observing policies. This practice can create conflict throughout the community and in worst cases, it can result in discrimination lawsuits.
To ensure consistent policy enforcement, follow these simple dos and don’ts:
DO: Lead by example. If you expect residents to follow a policy, you need to do the same. Board members are not exempt from the rules.
DON’T: Change your rules based on circumstances or individuals. While it may seem to make things easier in the short term, it can create problems in the long term.
DO: Enforce policies when rules are violated. If residents assume they’ll be able to get away with breaking the rules, they will. Make sure you are enforcing policies according to a process set in place.
While consistent policy enforcement is the job of your management company, you need to be their partner to ensure it’s being done fairly. Your reputation as a board and association depends on it.
3. Be transparent
How the association rules are enforced shouldn’t be a surprise to members of your community. In addition to understanding the ‘what, how, and why’ of the policy, residents need to know what happens when a policy is violated. They also need to understand the potential fines that are in place and how they are collected.
Do you currently have a transparent enforcement process in place? Here’s an example of what that looks like:
Step 1: Individual in violation of a policy receives a courtesy call explaining the details of the situation and the policy that was violated.
Step 2: Individual receives a violation letter, providing details on the policy and the offense as we as any fines required.
Step 3: If individual does not respond after a determined period, a second violation letter is sent.
Step 4: Upon refusal to comply after three communications, the issue will be escalated to the association attorney or violation committee for next steps.
It should be noted that your process may differ from the above based on best practices and local laws. When creating an association policy enforcement process, work with your management company to ensure that you’re abiding by best practices and in accordance with your governing documents and local laws.
Always remember that things change. The policies that your association had in place five years ago may not be relevant anymore. That’s why it’s important to review your association policies on an annual basis. When reviewing policies, work with your management company and association attorney to ask the following questions:
Has new state legislature passed any laws that invalidate this policy?
Does this policy improve resident lifestyles?
Will this policy quickly become outdated?
Does this policy remain relevant for residents and owners?
If during the evaluation process you decide to revise or review an existing policy, make sure you educate residents about the change and explain the reasoning behind it. Because transparency and consistency remain key when it comes to policy compliance and enforcement.