August 20, 2010

Owners Use Political Process to Challenge Stricter Covenant Enforcement Policy

Parking restrictions can lead to intense disputes between boards and owners. For example, home owners in a West Lafayette, Indiana subdivision are currently battling their board of directors over a covenant amendment banning street parking. The amendment was enacted in 2003, but it was not strictly enforced until November of 2009. Some owners complained that they were no longer able to host gatherings as a result of the new enforcement policy. The board responded to the outcry by starting a pilot program that allows owners to pay a refundable deposit for up to five street parking permits in advance of an event. The protesting owners were not satisfied with that solution, and they are now attempting to call a special meeting and replace the board members.

As a general rule, community association boards may begin enforcing existing covenants more strictly as long as all owners are notified of the change and are equally subject to the new policy. However, boards should also consider the reaction of the owners to abrupt changes in the standards governing their property. Giving owners an opportunity to state their concerns in advance and modifying the enforcement policy to address those concerns will reduce the odds of a major conflict.

The various political remedies described in every association’s governing documents (such as the ability to amend the governing documents, override board-adopted rules, and recall board members) often represent the best options for owners that want to challenge a strict enforcement policy. Mediation and some types of arbitration can also be effective ways to resolve such disputes. On the other hand, legal action is too slow, expensive, and uncertain for many owners to consider it a viable option, and litigation has the added drawback of greatly reducing the potential for dialogue and compromise.