Those of us who practice in this area spend a good portion of our time dealing with situations involving unit owners and condo residents who breach the rules established by the condominium corporation. Whether it is the young couple with the barbecue on the balcony (Globe and Mail article) or the elderly woman with her barking Yorkie, non-compliance issues seem to occur in a multitude of situations and condo rule enforcement continues to be a challenge for boards and management.
Numerous articles and seminars have been given over the years about how to deal with “difficult people” and the enforcement of rules, but there doesn’t appear to be any easy answer as to what approach boards and management should take.
A few years ago I attended the annual ACMO/CCI and listened to the key note speaker, Ellen Hirsch de Hann, an attorney from Tampa, Florida and the past president of the Community Associations Institute, about the need for board members, property managers and lawyers to take different approaches to enforcement in condominium communities.
I think it is helpful to review those key points raised by Ellen which continue to be relevant and can assist boards and management in developing ways to deal with non-compliant condo owners and residents:
- Review your corporation’s rules- why start every rule with “NO” -Do they need to be updated to reflect the needs in your community? Is the language clear and concise. Will the residents understand them.
- Think creatively- the objective being mutual respect between the residents and board members. Encourage participation by the residents and maintain full disclosure and discourse with residents. Get residents involved in drafting the rules by establishing committees before formalizing the rules.
- Help new residents by introducing them to condominium living. Invest the time by sitting down with new owners and explain their obligations as owners by reviewing the condominium documentation. Educate the residents (tenants included) if you can. Introduce the old “welcome wagon” concept. Assign a resident to be the “greeting resident”.
- Review your enforcement policies- Be consistent and uniform in enforcing any breach of the Declaration or the rules and enforce them in a timely fashion. Establish complaint procedures and verify complaints before accusing a resident.
- Lastly, use the lawyer as a last resort. Sometimes all it takes is a different approach. Try changing your ways- see what happens.
Many newly created condominium corporations have rules which will have been drafted by the developers lawyers and often are very brief and do not deal with important issues they will arise in a condominium community. Rules should be drafted specifically for a community and it may take many drafts to get a set of rules that best suits a particular condominium corporation. I have seen many condominium corporations who use rules from other communities without giving much thought or review to see if they are consistent with their declaration or if they are properly drafted and enforceable. If the rules are not properly drafted, when it comes time to enforcement, the board will find that they may have difficulty in the enforcement process.
Now is time to start thinking about Ellen’s approach and hopefully it will have a positive impact on those “difficult” people.