Dealing with Members

Minimize Conflicts and Complaints When Adding New Amenity

Amenities have always played a big part in homeowners’ attraction to planned communities and condominiums. After all, being able to enjoy a pool, workout room, or clubhouse without the hassle of personally maintaining it is worth the cost of association fees to many people. Ideally, members would have to pay only for the amenities they use, but that’s not the case in traditionally run associations.

Set Policy for Garage Sale Participation

The trend towards buying vintage items or “upcycling”—that is, using old items for a new purpose—has made garage sales popular again. Garage sales can benefit the association and members in several ways, so consider hosting one. It’s a great way to give members a chance to meet one another and to promote community spirit. But it also serves a practical purpose: It enables members who are running out of space in their homes or condo units to earn some money while clearing out items they no longer want.

Help Members Avoid Improving Prohibited Areas

Members sometimes build improvements on common areas or limited common areas without first getting the association’s consent, because they mistakenly believe the area belongs to them. This can lead to an unpleasant dispute between a member and the association, especially when the association tells the member to remove the improvement.

Add Amenities that Reflect Members’ Interests, Lifestyle Trends

By Andrea Brescia

As times and social tastes change, your board might explore adding amenities to keep your community association current and in line with newer associations. The amenities that were in place when your association was founded might not be completely satisfying to your membership today—or attracting new buyers.

Set Guidelines for Solar Energy Installation

by Andrea Brescia

Enforce Late Fee Policy Consistently to Avoid Fair Housing Claims

Unfortunately, sometimes you have to charge your members late fees if they don’t pay their common expenses on time (unless you've established an acceleration policy, as discussed in "Cut Monthly Assessment Delinquencies with Tough Acceleration Policy"). You probably don’t want to charge late fees to members who occasionally pay late. But you might also feel that members who chronically pay late deserve the late charges.

Don’t Let Noncompliant Pet Owners Run Wild in Community

Just because you have pet rules for your community, that doesn’t mean that members with pets will always follow them. Noncompliant members can create problems that range from annoying to dangerous. What can you do? Periodically send a letter reminding them of the importance of complying with your pet rules and pointing out how disregarding the rules disturbs other members and your maintenance staff. Your letter, like our Model Letter: Remind Pet Owners of Responsibilities, should include four key points.

Set Communication Policy for Responding to Member Requests

Some aspects of association management will never change: You’ll always have to be aware of financial issues, deal with maintenance situations, hire and train staff, and work with board members to take the best possible care of the community. And there will always be a need for good and effective communication between managers and the association’s board members and residents.

Set Rules for Sign Posting in Your Community

With the presidential and other elections approaching, members may want to show their support for a candidate by posting signs on their lawns and porches, or putting posters or decals in their windows. But you don't want to end up with front yard “sign farms” that look unsightly. You also don't want a sign war between neighbors who have opposing viewpoints on political issues and post certain signs just to irritate their neighbors. All of that diminishes property values and looks tacky.

Don’t Let Community Rules—or How You Enforce Them—Lead to Discrimination Claims

Fair housing claims often stem from adverse actions taken against members for violating community policies or rules. In some cases, it's a claim of “disparate treatment—that is, that the rules are being selectively enforced because of a member's race or other characteristic protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Less commonly, it's a claim of “disparate impact,” where seemingly neutral rules have a disproportionate effect on racial minorities or other protected groups. In some cases, both claims are raised.