Community association rules and regulations are designed to maintain order and aesthetics, protect commonly owned resources, and provide certainty and safety to residents. Many are straightforward: Where your trashcan should go. How you can display flags. If you can put decorations in your yard.

But the complexity of running a community association has grown exponentially as new technology and housing trends have emerged. Today’s boards must be up to speed on a host of disparate issues that weren’t even on the radar a few years ago, such as doorbell cameras, short-term rentals, drones, and electric vehicle charging stations.

Association leaders should always be thinking of the innovations and changes that could impact their community. However, one of the biggest pitfalls is rushing to solve a new problem rather than evaluating emerging issues and determining the right rule for your community—or if one is needed at all.

Michael A. Inman, a partner with Inman & Strickler in Virginia Beach, Va., and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL), offers these tips when considering new rules:

  • ​Have the draft rule reviewed by legal counsel for clarity and enforceability.
  • See if any federal, state, or local statutes or ordinances provide adequate regulation that might make the rule unnecessary.
  • Make sure there’s no conflict between the rule and the ​association’s governing documents, or any federal, state, or local law. There are instances when an association may be able to impose a stricter rule than federal, state, or local laws.
  • Give adequate notice of the adoption of the rule and provide owners enough time to make any physical changes needed to comply.
  • Communicate and engage with residents throughout the process.

Gary M. Daddario, an attorney with Marcus Errico Emmer and Brooks in Merrimack, N.H., and a CCAL fellow, adds that new or existing rules need to:

  • ​Apply to everyone. A rule that only applies to a certain subset of the community could be considered discriminatory.
  • Be evenly applied. When anybody violates the rule, regardless of who it is, enforcement should be the same.

>>Read more about the new technology, demographics, design trends, and more that are forcing community associations to adapt—or adopt—new rules in “Times Are Changing” from CAI’s Common Ground™ magazine.

  • Daniel Brannigan

    Daniel Brannigan is CAI's Director of Publishing and Managing Editor of Common Ground™ magazine. He has been editor of CAI's flagship publication since 2010 and previously edited CAI's newsletters Community Manager, Minutes, and Law Reporter. Daniel has helped guide Common Ground to awards for feature article design and single-topic issue from Association Media & Publishing's EXCEL Awards. Community Manager picked up six awards for general excellence and newswriting under Daniel's guidance from 2007-2010. A former reporter, Daniel is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, daughter, pug, and cat.

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