Making Rules That Stick!

Compliance is easier for residents if the rules specify correct behavior rather than just state what isn’t permitted. Here are some tips for making rules that everyone in your Association will understand and follow:

  • Rules should be stated in positive language. If they can’t be stated positively, encourage voluntary compliance by adding information about what residents can do instead.
  • The best rules are written in plain language without legal jargon—they’re brief and straightforward.
  • Good rules are balanced—neither too restrictive nor too broad. The more narrowly focused or specific a rule is, the greater the opportunity for residents to break it inadvertently. Similarly, the broader a rule, the less guidance it provides.
  • When drafting rules, boards should begin by identifying a problem or a need and deciding whether a rule will address it. They should ask themselves, “Does our association really need this new rule?” To answer that question, they review the association’s governing documents and existing rules to ensure the problem isn’t already addressed elsewhere.
  • Once the board has drafted the rule, the association should circulate it to owners and residents and ask for comments. Discuss the rule at an open meeting. Amend as needed before enacting. If the board decides to move ahead, the final rule will be published well before its effective date to give all residents time to comply.
  • When the rule is in place, residents must follow it and boards must enforce it uniformly and consistently. Inconsistent application of the rules invariably divides residents and promotes discord.
  • Rules enforcement includes due process—notify residents of issues, allow them time to comply and provide them a chance to be heard and represented. Wise associations start with friendly notice since many violations are unintentional.