Can New Board Enforce Rules Old Board Overlooked?

Can New Board Enforce Rules Old Board Overlooked?

Q: Along with several other new members, I’ve recently been elected to my association’s board. We’re hoping to start enforcing community rules that the old board let slide. What’s the best way to go about doing this, or has the association waived its right to enforce these overlooked rules?

A: Boards should strive to set fair rules and enforce them consistently and effectively. But that’s not always easy to do. Sometimes boards let rules slide because it takes less effort, especially if only minor rules are being disregarded by members. But this creates a huge problem for an incoming board that realizes once it enters office that its predecessors haven’t enforced community rules.

Since the rules are official, your new board might think that it can immediately start enforcing the previously overlooked rules right away, as if they hadn’t been ignored. Letting members who have been violating rules for years continue to do so with impunity seems unfair. But it’s not that simple. And, as you suspect, some local laws prohibit the enforcement of previously overlooked rules in certain situations. For example, in some states, if a board doesn’t enforce a no-pets rule within a certain time period of getting notice that a member is keeping a pet, the pet is allowed to stay. So before trying to revive an overlooked rule, ask your attorney whether your state and local law lets you do so.

While an incoming board should certainly revive previously overlooked rules when it takes charge, it needs to handle the situation carefully and diplomatically. The best way to do this is to send members written notice of the board’s intent to revive overlooked rules. For a Model Notice you can use to do this, see “Proceed Cautiously When Enforcing Overlooked Rules,” available to subscribers here.