Condo association and HOA policies can have a significant impact on your community’s reputation and can often influence property values. They may sometimes be controversial, but policies are the compass that guides your association, ensuring every step taken is in the right direction for the health and success of your association. Implementing the right policies, thoughtfully and strategically, helps create a positive atmosphere in your community, and often protects people from physical harm and the association from liability.
Whether you’re on the board of a condo, a master-planned community or any other Tennessee association, your board should try to cover some standard categories of rules for everyone’s well-being. Start with these basics:

Parking Regulations: The Essentials

Parking regulations can be frustrating, especially if you've experienced towing or fines for non-compliance. However, these rules are vital for every building and neighborhood. They guarantee ample parking for residents and ensure easy access to and from homes by preventing obstructions like double-parked cars or large vehicles. Moreover, parking regulations must adhere to local laws, providing handicapped parking and emergency vehicle access. To learn more about effective parking policies, check out this article.

Financial Responsibility: The Importance of a Collection Policy

Is your collection policy well-defined, thorough, and equitable? Lucy Acevedo, regional director at FirstService Residential, considers this the most crucial policy for associations. Prioritizing a collection policy ensures the financial well-being of your association and adherence to legal requirements. A robust collection policy clearly outlines guidelines for dues, late fees, and delinquencies, encouraging prompt payments, minimizing owner disputes, and ultimately streamlining operations and future planning. When enacting your collection policy, collaborate closely with your association's legal counsel to ensure proper legal notification procedures and consistent, fair enforcement of the policy.

Occupancy Rules and Restrictions

Establishing clear guidelines regarding the number of residents allowed in each residence is essential for all communities, regardless of type and size. Occupancy policies safeguard residents from fire hazards and safety concerns that can arise from overcrowding. It's crucial to consult with your association's legal advisor when formulating occupancy policies to ensure compliance with local regulations and the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits imposing unreasonable limitations on the number of occupants in a dwelling.

Rental Regulations: A Key Consideration for Condos and Communities

Condominium and homeowner associations need well-defined rules for both short-term (e.g., Airbnb, VRBO) and long-term rentals. Thoughtful rental policies can help your community maintain a balanced atmosphere by avoiding a constant turnover of residents and vacationers. Examples of such policies include setting minimum stay requirements for short-term rentals or requiring owners to occupy their property for a specified period of time before leasing it long-term. It's crucial to remember that your association's rental policies must comply with state laws, which vary in their restrictions on rentals. Before implementing any new rental rules, consult your association's legal counsel. For further information and examples regarding short-term rentals, access our detailed white paper.

Design and Upkeep Regulations: The Foundation of Community Appeal

Architectural, construction, and aesthetic guidelines are crucial for establishing a positive community image and preserving property values. These regulations dictate how residents should maintain their homes, ensuring consistent upkeep of exteriors, fixtures, and fencing. This consistent maintenance is vital for fostering an attractive environment and sustaining high property values. By implementing and enforcing these policies, your community can ensure its long-term appeal and marketability. Additionally, associations should establish comprehensive guidelines for aesthetics, including exterior color palettes, roofing materials, driveway surfaces, window styles, and even flooring choices (with soundproofing considerations for condominiums).
Sean Esteves, regional director at FirstService Residential, mentions another important policy that falls under this category. “Your association should also have clear rules and regulations specific to contractors. That means rules regarding licenses and insurance, work hours, access and registration of workers, parking, elevator use, delivery procedures, debris removal, protection of common elements, and smoking.”

Pet Policy: Fostering a Pet-Friendly Community

Creating a welcoming environment for pets can attract potential homeowners, but it could also present issues such as unleashed pets and excessive noise complaints. Establishing clear and reasonable policies is essential to maintaining a harmonious atmosphere for both pet owners and those without pets. Consider implementing waste disposal rules or requiring registration for all pets residing within the community. Remember that, even if your association doesn't formally permit pets, you must adhere to laws protecting and accommodating individuals with service and emotional support animals. Always collaborate closely with your association's attorney to ensure compliance with relevant regulations. For more examples and best practices, read our full article on pet policies.

Holiday Decór Policy: Balancing Cheer with Community Harmony

Seasonal decorations enhance the ambiance for residents and visitors alike yet can pose challenges without established guidelines. For instance, prohibiting decorations on shared condominium property and common areas prevents damage to exterior finishes. These policies also address potential conflicts arising from excessive noise or lighting after reasonable hours, or prolonged displays of holiday décor.

Beyond the Basics: Tailoring Policies for Your Community

Crafting policies that align with your community's unique character and long-term goals is essential for building a positive reputation and safeguarding residents. Begin with the seven core categories outlined above and consult with your legal counsel and property management team to identify any additional policy needs or gaps. Consider establishing communication policies to ensure clear and consistent information dissemination, visitor and guest guidelines, facility usage rules for shared amenities, record inspection procedures, codes of conduct, and meeting protocols (addressing speaking time, participation, etc.).

Taking the Next Steps: Policy Implementation and Beyond

What comes after establishing a policy? Whether you're rolling out a new policy or strengthening an existing one, effective communication and proper enforcement are key. Consider adopting a policy detailing rule enforcement procedures to guarantee equitable treatment for residents and owners. Keep in mind that enforcement actions must adhere to legal statutes, so it's crucial to consult with your association's legal counsel. For more policy best practices, read our article Association Policy 101: Make Homeowner Association Rules Without Making Enemies.

Thursday May 30, 2024