Byline: Jordan I. Shifrin
Many people move into a new home which in turn makes them a member of an association. Frequently, it is a matter of days or even weeks before they become acclimated. While purchasing extension cords and deciding where to hang pictures, the new homeowner must also make it a priority to learn about the rights and obligations of being an association member. A new association member should become familiar with the rules immediately and also have some familiarity with the covenants and by-laws.
Surprisingly, someone may move into a new home in an association and either not understand that there is one (usually these are single family homes) or learn what is expected of them.
Association living is a binding contract between the owner, his neighbors and the organization constituting the responsibilities one must accept. All owners have the right to vote, use the facilities, the peaceful enjoyment of their home, attend open meetings, etc.
Conversely, each owner also has an obligation to pay their assessments on time, obey the rules, and refrain from encroaching on or disrupting the quiet enjoyment of their neighbors' home.
A board of directors for either a new or older property must always make sure:
- It has rules and regulations.
- The rules and regulations are up to date.
- Every resident (owner and tenant) has a copy.
However, giving people documents to read and trying to educate them will still not make anti-social behavior obsolete. Defined limits and procedures must be put into place so that there are consequences when someone disregards the rules of the community.
Association boards frequently receive complaints from one owner about another for a clear cut rule violation, obnoxious behavior, outright harassment or an actual threat to someone's safety. Each situation necessitates its own response.
Association boards are already burdened with multiple tasks and limited time constraints and cannot always be the arbiter of every petty grievance; and they should not have that responsibility. However, there are occasions when the elected representatives should step in because it is more than a mere "neighbor dispute."
When the property manager or the board receives a complaint, here are the steps that should be followed and incorporated in some fashion into the rules and regulations:
- Investigate the complaint and the behavior in question; identify who is involved, how many witnesses, were the police called and is there documentary or photographic evidence? …