How to Enforce Rule Violations
In the several years of managing properties, I have found that handling rule violations is probably one of the most difficult jobs of property managers. There is so much that goes into self-policing a community. Boards are stuck having to “write-up” their neighbors and friends. Many owners sometimes don’t even report violations because they don’t want retribution. This is always one of the most frustrating duties of a Board.
A former board member who I have admired as much in business as well as leadership once said that rules are meant to establish a guideline and not meant to be enforced to the letter of the law. For example an owner who always walks their dog on a leash but the dog gets out unexpectedly, do you enforce your rule against them? Are there any mitigating factors? As a manager, I have always found that common sense prevails.
An effective manager understands the community they work for in terms of the people that make up the community as well as how the Board wants to manage violations. Certainly I am no lawyer nor can I give you legal advice on rule enforcement, but it’s my experience to follow some simple common sense rule of thumbs: (Your bylaws, if written well can give you the best tools on rule enforcement)
- Simply ask the offending owner to stop breaking the rules. The only caveat to this is that owners don’t like to tell other owners to stop their behavior. That’s why having an effective management company who understands the community and how to approach owners individually can tend to put out small problems way before they become big problems. As my daughter would say… “You don’t always have to be mean”. Either way, let your management company be the bad guy.
- Its surprising how well a simple phone call can take care of the problem. There are times you need to document the violation and send the owner a letter. I have attached a letter here for your convenience. It’s a soft letter but one that works pretty well.
- In that rare event you need to fine, your bylaws should outline a process on how to do that. Fining can send a strong message to other owners that your Board is serious on enforcing the rules.
By no means is this meant to be legal advice on handling complaints. It just makes sense to use common sense when you enforce your rules. For more help on handling complaints, please feel free to contact us for more info.
Cory Even AMS®, CMCA®
North Shore Property Management