Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Value of Rules

One of the benefits of living in an Association is the enjoyment of amenities at a cost that is also shared with your neighbors. The amenities and other shared spaces are referred to as the "common areas". The governing documents and rules and regulations establish how residents are expected to conduct themselves in these "common areas". Some common restrictions relate to pets, trash cans, smoking, and parking.  These exist to promote a harmonious quality of life for the community - so that everyone is able to enjoy the shared amenities!   Examples include:


In many communities pets must be kept on a leash, owners must pick up and properly dispose of excrement, and excessive pet barking must be curbed to acceptable levels. Off-leash pets pose a threat to everyone, as the owner no longer has control over the dog’s actions. The pet may dart away from the owner and get struck by a car or attack another pet or person. Owners are asked to utilize specific areas to allow their pets to use the bathroom and to pick up after their pets. Besides being unsightly, smelly and offensive, pet excrement harms landscaping and contaminates groundwater. Contrary to popular belief, pet urine is not “good” for the landscaping. Social media guru Garth Johnston states the following in his blog “While urea is rich in nitrogen, and plants require nitrogen for leaf growth, urea is also rich in salt. Remember Carthage? The Romans salted the earth so that no crops would ever grow again. Salt sucks moisture from leaves and roots alike and kills beneficial soil microorganisms. Next time you’re in any park, look at the shrubs at the entrance and on corners; they all have a sad brown arc of dead leaves at the base.” This is due to the fact that this spot is usually a pet favorite when entering or leaving a park. 


Trash cans left outside well beyond pick up time are not attractive and detract from the overall appearance of the neighborhood, sending a message that the community is unmonitored. This encourages a rolling snowball effect, as the area becomes a trash magnet, branching out into other issues such as graffiti.  Untamed trash cans can become a hazard if they are left tipped over in the street. It is important for community members to know when trash pick-up days are and what is acceptable to be left on the curb.  Related to this topic, the placement of unauthorized items in the common area also detract from the overall appearance of the neighborhood.


A common issue in condo and townhome communities is the transference of odor into the common areas and neighboring units. While this is largely a neighbor-to-neighbor issue the Association is sometimes asked to intervene in extreme cases. The governing documents for communities typically have language about the right to “quiet enjoyment” of one’s home and go on to address offensive odors or obnoxious behavior. The smoker’s right to smoke is equal to the non-smoker’s right to avoid exposure. It is important for smokers to take steps to eliminate odors through mini-air filtration systems, frequent filter changes in the primary HVAC unit, purchasing upgraded filters, or the incorporation of outdoor smoke breaks.  Some legal challenges have started cropping up where owners sue neighbors over this issue.

Parking is often a challenge in communities. Parking guidelines are designed to allow continuous ingress and egress through the community. Improperly parked cars that impede flow and usage are not only an inconvenience but often pose a safety hazard. Limited space available for visitor parking at clubhouses and in condo communities also poses challenges. Frequent communications will breed familiarity with the parking guidelines, so homeowners make the appropriate arrangements for their guests.

Living in an Association provides each home with certain rights and responsibilities. It is crucial for the Association to educate the members about rules and regulations that govern the community. When the majority of the membership is educated on the rules and consistently observe them, property values are positively impacted for everyone. At the end of the day, the rules are in place to protect the investment and enjoyment of all residents within the community, and therefore should be taken seriously.


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