Parking is one of the hottest and most contentious topics in a Condo Association. Issues like more cars than parking spaces, improperly recorded deeds, and handicap parking can make for a complicated situation for Boards and Management. In today’s post, Better Condo Life is teaming up with Kevin Hirzel of Cummings, McClorey, Davis and Acho, PLC to help you tackle the complicated issues related to Condo Association parking policies and laws. Mr. Hirzel brings a wealth of expertise on Condo legal issues and is a frequent blogger at the Michigan Condo Law blog.
Transferring Parking Spaces/Deeds
One of the biggest issues you’ll face when dealing with Condo Association parking policies is ensuring that all spots are deeded correctly. You would think this is straightforward, but many communities find out that their parking space deeds are not properly assigned. In some jurisdictions, parking spaces are individually deeded; in others, they are covered in the Master Deed. Michigan, for example, is done via Master Deed. “It is important for the Master Deed to define whether a parking space is a general common element or a limited common element,” says Mr. Hirzel. “If assigned parking is appropriate, it should be reflected in the Master Deed.”
The key lesson here is that you should not “let things slide” when it comes to paperwork. An Association must ensure that where units are parking is reflected properly in the deed structure. You also want to validate that the parking spaces are correctly deeded prior to any transaction. “We see people try and do deeds without amending the Master Deed,” notes Mr. Hirzel. Such a transaction will likely become a headache for the Association and Owners.
When parking violations occur, the typical response is to tow. When an Owner or their guest gets towed, someone is always unhappy, even if the towing was legitimate. There are some steps you can take to ensure you are transparent about your policy. First, ensure that the Association has a formal policy for towing that is well-advertised and well-distributed to Owners. Next, ensure that your towing signage is accurate and up to date. “Each state has different requirements that must be complied with before a vehicle can be towed,” Mr. Hirzel says. “Examples based on Michigan law can be found here.” Ensure that you consult with your own legal representation for the nuances in your jurisdiction.
Handicap parking is an issue that all Associations need to be aware of. You must ensure that your Association is meeting all applicable laws about the number of spaces allocated for both guests and Owners who are eligible. Next, you need to develop a swift and legally sufficient process for validating these requests. Finally, if you don’t have enough spaces, be ready to make accommodations. “If an Association does not have adequate handicap parking for a co-owner, a disabled co-owner may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Federal Fair Housing Act,” Mr. Hirzel says. Ensure that your Board and Management are able to act quickly to accommodate these requests appropriately.
Parking as a Revenue Source
Parking spots can be a great revenue source for an Association, particularly a new Association which may find itself owning a number of spots intentionally or due to deed issues. Like any resource, ensure that you carefully manage your spaces. You may want to consider a financial analysis of whether you should rent the spots for recurring revenue or sell them for an immediate boost to your finances – possibly your reserves. Keeping spaces also can help if you’re carrying out major projects that might impact parking, such as resurfacing a parking lot. Don’t neglect your legal liabilities, however. “It is important to check the governing documents to ensure that leasing or transferring a parking space to a third party is allowed,” cautions Mr. Hirzel. “Many Condominium documents restrict the use of parking spaces to co-owners.”
Parking Policy Tips for New Associations or Conversions
When a community is newly constructed, you have the biggest challenges to work out. For example, new Associations tend to see errors in the deed structure. The Association may wish to carry out an audit of parking spaces and deeds to ensure that all spaces are accounted for and assigned to the correct units. Doing this early and proactively can help get ahead of issues later when people begin to sell their units. You also might find un-deeded spaces, which in most jurisdictions will revert to the Condo Association’s property. This can be a source of recurring revenue if you rent, or a lump sum if you sell the spaces. New Condo Associations also should be careful towing in the early months of existance. In this period records may be sloppy and poorly maintained. You do not want to inadvertently tow someone who just bought their unit.
Be Transparent About Condo Association Parking Policies
As with most things related to Condo Associations, your big problems happen when you aren’t transparent. Given how parking is something nearly everyone uses, tensions can run high. Ensure that your Condo Association parking policies are well-developed and well-communicated and you’ll be on your way to leading a Better Condo Life.