The Condo Association Rule Life Cycle

Condo Association rules are always a hot topic.  In general, people want to be left alone and live quiet, nuisance-free lives.  They don’t want a Condo Association or HOA hassling them over why their blinds are ivory when only eggshell white is approved.  At the same time, they also want to live a life where their fellow neighbors aren’t doing things that disrupt their lives.  They don’t want to hear the person above them running on the treadmill at 4:45 AM while they try to sleep, and they don’t want to see pet waste in a front walk.  The Condo Association rule life cycle arises from this constant battle.  

Where Rulemaking Power Comes From

The Condo Association Rule life cycle isn't quite this complicated.
The Condo Association Rule life cycle isn’t quite this complicated.

The power for an Association to create rules is directly drawn from the Bylaws.  In general, a rule cannot be created (without being challenged successfully) unless it is derived from the Bylaws.  For example, Bylaws enable Condo Associations to collect Condo fees from Owners.  The specifics of late fees, collection times, and other details are left to the rulemaking process.  On the other hand, Condo Bylaws won’t specify what kind of books Owners can read, so you won’t see rules banning the reading of historical fiction.  

Rules are important because they give the Board the power to issue “Cease and Desist” letters and then fine repeat violators.  This is often the best or only way to punish a repeat offender.  Rule enforcement is often reliant upon Owners reporting behavior, but there are other options as well.

How Most Rules are Created

The reality is that Owners often do dumb stuff, forcing the creation of the rules.  For example, in a community with pets, one would take for granted that people would pick up their pets’ waste when they walk their animals.  And the vast majority of pet owners do exactly that.  But it only takes one bad apple to ignore the rules and let their dog poop everywhere.  A Condo Board then needs to create a rule so they can appropriately punish the ne’er-do-well rogue who feels the need to not pick up after their pet.  Thus, a rule for pet cleanup is created.  

This exact scenario will play itself out in pretty much every case of bad human behavior you can imagine.  The bigger the Condo Association, the more crazy stuff you’ll see.  Other examples of common rules related to people being jerks include:

  • Late fees – making sure Condo fee collections can be done effectively to prevent delinquency
  • Proper use of the pool or other amenities – making sure people aren’t running around drunk in your pool scaring kids or the like.
  • Parking rules – always a big one.  For example, you might have Owners who need more spots than they have try to abuse guest parking and park there, denying other Owners the parking for their legitimate guests.

You get the idea.

How Most Rules are Abused

When this guy shows up at the pool, you'll wish you had rules to get rid of him. Very niiice!
When this guy shows up at the pool, you’ll wish you had rules to get rid of him. Very niiice!

Once a rule is created, it typically curbs the negative behavior, and everyone is happy.  Time passes, Board members change, and it becomes just another Condo Association rule.  No one remembers why the rule was made – it just exists.  Then you end up getting a bad Board.  They may be punitive, petty, or maybe just bored.  They start looking for ways to enforce rules or generally be a pain in the ass for no specific reason.  

They discover that there is a “pool decency rule.”  This rule was created years ago because there was this one guy who liked to get drunk and be boisterous at the pool and was harassing women and children.  No one remembers that guy.  He moved out, so did the Board.  Now the Association has a lot of children living in it, and it’s making the Board, who is made up of crotchety bad people, upset.  They want a quiet pool.  They start using the rule to issue cease and desists on the families of small children who are just using the pool like kids do.  

People get angry over this.  Who could possibly hate kids??  Why does our Association have so many dumb rules??  They lead a resistance movement and get the rule repealed.  Everyone rejoices!  We’ve fought against Condo Association tyranny and unneeded rules!

Years pass.  A new jerk moves in who likes to wear thong Speedos and be drunk at the pool… and thus the Condo Association rule life cycle repeats.  

The Condo Association Rule Life Cycle Never Ends

This is obviously an exaggerated scenario, but it illustrates the point.  In the moment, rules are created to address a problem.  Over time, they can be perverted and abused by people in power.  When you find yourself up against a rule that doesn’t make sense or is being abused, chances are it was created in the past for a good reason.  Governing a large Condo Association is a constant balance of the behavior of the boorish few against the rest of the Owners.  Always consider the Condo Association rule life cycle and make sure the rule you create today won’t be abused tomorrow.    


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