Condo & HOA Rules: Why Clear Communication is Key
Bylaws and rules are an integral piece to the success of any condo or HOA. They must be put in place and fairly enforced to help with resident safety while preventing unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of individual units or homes and common elements.
Often used to supplement the bylaws, rules are easier to create and change. This allows boards to quickly respond to the evolving needs of the community they serve. For example, a condo association or HOA might have a bylaw that states that unit owners need the association board’s approval to have a pet. The supplementary rules for that bylaw may include the types of pets allowed, or how many a unit owner can have at one time.
Establishing realistic rules that need to be upheld and meet the community’s needs can be a challenge. To ensure success, boards must lay an effective groundwork with open communication at its core. Doing this will establish trust between the management company, board and residents.
Here are some proven tips and best practices to ensure that your association rules positively impact your community. In doing so, strengthening the association’s reputation for years to come.
Tip #1: Identify The “Why” Behind the Rule
Effective association boards understand the importance of staying connected to their residents and working together towards mutual goals. Through proactively communicating the “why” behind a rule, you ensure that decisions are in line with the association’s best interests. While at the same time increasing satisfaction and property values.
When creating a new rule, ensure you can answer the question, “What’s the purpose behind our rule?” In other words, why is this rule being introduced?
Is it required because of multiple resident complaints?
Has a new law or ordinance come up in your area that requires a rule?
Will this rule prevent or mitigate potential liability in the community?
Identifying your “why” is most often straightforward, but in some cases may require a little more time and a more in-depth explanation. Either way it’s critical for effective rule adoption.
Before introducing a new rule, your board, association manager, and management company must work together to determine why it’s necessary. Keep in mind that any new rule being implemented needs be in line with state statutes.
Keep these helpful links handy when creating news rules:
Once you’ve created a sound rule, it’s time to decide how you will communicate it to the community.
Tip #2: Communicate the Purpose and Benefits
Once you’ve identified the “why” behind your rule, you must communicate the purpose to residents. In doing so, you can help them understand the benefits of adopting this rule along with why it will improve their day-to-day lives and property values.
(Reminder: If you can’t easily communicate the policy to residents, the benefits aren’t clear, or it goes against the corporation’s bylaws, governing state acts, or local laws, take a step back. Ask yourself, is the rule reasonable, necessary, and enforceable? If not, consider reviewing the rule again with your management company. Having your rules vetted by your association lawyer is also a recommended course of action.)
When implementing a new rule in the community, remember that they can be opportunities to allow additional activities or exceptions. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many associations relaxed limitations to enable additional activities and experiences for residents.
Communicating clearly with the residents about the benefits along with the reasoning behind a rule, provides residents an increased level of understanding. That in turn leads to greater agreement and most importantly stronger compliance.
If partnered with a professional management company, they will have the resources and technologies to communicate effectively to your community. They will also provide your board with templates and best practices for communicating with residents.
Tip #3: Explain the Process
Strong and effective communication is the cornerstone of the successful implementation of a new rule. Keeping residents informed and engaged throughout every stage - from conception to enforcement - helps ensure that everyone understands the rule. It also makes it easier for residents to comply without hesitation or confusion.
Explaining the process of rule creation and enforcement to the community allows owners and residents to know what to expect. This type of information should be shared on a regular basis and can be done through communication tools like community newsletters.
Tip #4: Reinforce the Value and Long-Term Benefits
Even after you’ve communicated the new rule’s purpose and process, ensure you are reinforcing the long-term benefits. Work with your manager and management company on creative ways to communicate the importance of the rule. One way you might do this is by asking a local subject matter expert to share how a particular rule might increase property values.
Reinforcing the benefits of all the association rules and bylaws should be done on a regular basis. Doing so not only ensures new owners understand the benefits and values but that long-time residents keep these important rules top of mind. A good management company will help create a solid communication plan and strategy to maintain the clear understanding of the benefits with residents and owners.
The Key to Easy to Enforce Association Rules: Clear Communication
From creation to enforcement, the key to effective and reasonable rules is communication every step of the way. When owners and residents understand why the association has certain rules and what the benefit of them are, it leads to happier residents. Not to mention a stronger community.
This also greatly benefits the board. If your association has created realistic rules that are easy to follow, your board is spending less time focused on rule infractions within the community and fewer complaints from residents.
Learn how FirstService Residential can support your community in implementing association rules by contacting us here.