by Richard Thompson
Can a board enforce one rule and not another? For example, the CC&Rs restrict parking in a driveway over night. They also restrict adding a room addition without getting an architectural approval. Can an owner in violation for adding a room addition without approval say that he does not have to follow the rules because the parking rule is not enforced?
Not all rules are created equal. As a practical matter, rules issues rarely get into court because of cost, time and emotional effort involved. But when a matter gets into court, anything can happen. So it's always in the board's best interest to enforce all rules consistently so it won't give the judge an excuse to rule against the HOA.
Our board rescinded Robert's Rules of Order as their parliamentary procedure and adopted an abbreviated version of parliamentary procedure. The board figured the "skinny" version was sufficient and could be amended as needed. In reality, this was a ploy to prevent homeowners from questioning the board's decision making process.
As long as the procedure adopted conforms to the governing documents and state statute, an abbreviated version of Robert's Rules is appropriate as long as it does not stifle debate. The full body of Robert's Rules was intended for trained parliamentarians and large groups like Congress. Insisting that all of Robert's Rules be followed is nitpicking and would surely be used to intimidate the Chair on some issue of little importance.
If the board fails to enforce a particular rule like parking in driveways for an extended period of time or is extremely inconsistent about it, a violator might rightly protest being held accountable to that rule but not another rule. One problem is that different boards sometimes enforce rules differently. If a particular board feels strongly that enforcing a particular rule that has long gone unenforced is a good thing, the matter should be discussed, ideally, in the annual homeowner meeting and at minimum in a newsletter that clearly informs all owners of the issue and the board's intention to enforce it. Catching folks by surprise is bad policy.
On the other hand, if a rule hasn't been enforced consistently, maybe it isn't needed at all. It's okay to take it formally off the books. Don't just have rules for rules sake. There are enough to follow already.
Behind one of our buildings, several owners are allowing their dogs to do their business without ever cleaning up. It is unsanitary and downright nasty. Letters have been sent o these owners without any resolution. What steps can the HOA take?
They have been warned. Have the mess cleaned up and bill them for the expense.
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Published: June 19, 2013