Breaking Bad Dealing with Rule Breakers

 As the old saw goes, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. The same idea  often holds true for residents who choose to ignore bylaws or house rules, even  if they are well-intended and in place to serve the greater good of the  community. In the end, it’s the board that must take the pulse of the community and determine what rules  are appropriate and instruct the property manager to enforce them as necessary.  

 Setting the Rules

 For homeowner associations and condos in Florida, the lines are drawn clearly on  how house rules should be implemented. “The property manager should be the eyes and ears of the board,” says Evonne Andris, an attorney with Hyman & Mars LLP in Miami. “He or she should bring concerns and issues they encounter regularly to the board’s attention. The property manager should work to establish rules and the board  itself votes on approving rules. Generally, rules are the only association  documents which can be revised by a board of directors; revisions to all other  governing documents generally require a unit owner vote.”  

 Rules are created for many reasons, but some unit owners forget why some of them  are there in first place, or that they have a personal stake in their  enforcement. “If an issue continues to happen regularly, and it is related to the use of the  property and the protection of the values of the units, it should be brought to  the board’s attention for review and discussion of instituting a new rule or revising the  current rules,” says Andris.  

 That said, from time to time, unit owners call into question the validity of  some rules. The most common include pet policies, noise complaints and issues  such as whether smoking is allowed in common areas, or banned outright. “We often have new clients provide us with a huge book of rules that have been  adopted and modified over the years and who discover, much to their surprise,  many of those rules are invalid and unenforceable,” says Lisa Magill, an attorney wtih Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale..  

 Since house rules can generate controversy rather easily, boards need to be  strong and effective authorities to keep the peace. That means boards should  read up on exactly what their powers are—as well as what they also cannot do. “The board first has to establish who or what has the authority to promulgate or change the rules,” says Andris. “The Florida statutes do not automatically give every board of directors that  authority, so you must look to the governing documents, generally the  Declaration of Condominium, for that authority.”  

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