Condo & HOA Rules: Why Clear Communication is Key
Rules and regulations 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 units and common elements.
Rules are often used to supplement the declaration and bylaws and are easier to create and change, allowing boards to quickly respond to the changing needs of the community. For example, the declaration for a condo association may state that unit owners require the condo board’s approval to have a pet. The supplementary rules may outline the types of pets allowed, or how many a unit owner can have at one time.
In Illinois, condominiums and HOAs have different acts that they must look to when it comes to governing their community. To better understand this, we will take a deeper look at both.
Condominiums and the Illinois Condominium Property Act
If you serve on the board of a condominium association, your rules and Declaration must work in accordance with the Illinois Condominium Property Act. Within the act it states that a function of the board is “to adopt and amend rules and regulations covering the details of the operation and use of the property, after a meeting of the unit owners called for the specific purpose of discussing the proposed rules and regulations.” No quorum is required at this meeting, “unless the declaration, bylaws or other condominium instrument expressly provides to the contrary.”
HOAs and the Illinois Common Interest Community Association Act
If you are part of an HOA board, your rules must fall in line with the Illinois Common Interest Community Association Act. In accordance with the act, amendments to a declaration will only be deemed effective upon recordation and must be proposed, discussed and voted on by the board at an open meeting. Unlike changes to declarations & bylaws, rules within an association can often be enacted or amended without approval from owners.
Regardless of if you are a member of a condo or HOA board, establishing realistic rules that need to be upheld that 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 all residents.
Here are some proven tips and best practices to ensure that your condo or HOA rules positively impact your community. In doing so, strengthening the association’s reputation for years to come.
Rule Tip #1: Identify The “Why” Behind the Rule
Effective condo and HOA boards understand the importance of staying connected to their residents and working together towards mutual goals. By proactively communicating the “why” behind a rule, a board can ensure that decisions are in line with the community's best interests. At the same time, this will help increase resident satisfaction and property values.
As a board, ensure you answer the question, “What’s the purpose behind our rule?” In other words, why was the rule introduced?
Is it needed 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” can be straightforward, and in some cases may require a little more time. Either way it’s critical for effective rule adoption.
Before introducing a new rule, your board, association manager, and management company need to work together to determine why it’s necessary. Once you’ve accomplished that, you need to decide how you will communicate it.
Rule Tip #2: Communicate the Purpose and Benefits
Once you’ve identified the reason for your rule, you must communicate that purpose to residents. In doing so, you can help them understand the benefits of instituting this rule along with why it will improve their experience 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, the Condominium Property Act or Common Interest Community Association Act, 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 residents about the benefits along with the reasoning behind a certain rule gives them an increased level of understanding. That in turn leads to greater compliance and agreement.
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.
Rule Tip #3: Explain the Process
Strong, 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.
Explain the process of rule creation and enforcement to the community so that owners know what to expect. This can be done through community newsletters and should be information that is shared on a regular basis.
When the board implements a new rule, amends, or appeals a current rule, they must send notice to the entire community with the details, and provide no less than 10 and no more than 30 days’ notice of a membership meeting called for the purpose of discussing and adopting the rule.
Rule Tip #4: Reinforce the Long-Term Benefits and Value
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.
You may consider asking a subject matter expert to share how a particular rule might increase property values. This should be done on an ongoing basis so that new owners understand the benefits and value as well. A good management company will help create a solid communication plan and strategy to reinforce the benefits with residents and owners.
The Key to Easy to Enforce Association Rules: Communication
From rule creation to rule enforcement, the key to effective and reasonable rules is communication every step of the way. When owners understand why the association has certain rules and what the benefits of them are, it leads to happier residents. Not to mention a stronger community.
Learn how FirstService Residential can support your community in implementing association rules by contacting us here.