Use Restrictions and Rules Should Fit the Community

If you follow news stories on homeowners’ associations (“HOAs”), you may have seen coverage on the uproar created by the Sutton Lakes Homeowners Association in Jacksonville, Florida that has asked a resident to remove a sign that simply says Jesus. Evidently, the governing documents of the HOA only permit “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs in the community.

While Colorado law prohibits HOAs from banning the display of political signs, other types of signs can be prohibited through use restrictions found in a declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions or through rules and regulations. The question is not whether an association has the authority to restrict signage; the question is whether these types of restrictions make sense for your community.

 

Boards of directors of associations are understandably reticent to enforce restrictions contained in governing documents that are dated or just don’t fit the community. As a result, I recommend that associations periodically undertake a review of their governing documents to determine whether the restrictions contained in those documents fit the values and priorities of the residents living in the community. As communities evolve and the residents come and go – the documents that govern these communities should also evolve.

 

In undertaking this review, here are helpful questions to ask:

 

  1. When is the last time the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions or the rules and regulations of your community have been reviewed and updated? Has a review ever been undertaken? 
  1. Has your association received complaints from multiple residents on any particular restrictions? For instance, have there been multiple complaints on architectural restrictions such as color options or types of materials that may be used in making improvements? Have numerous residents complained about pet restrictions? If your association is seeing a trend in complaints relating to particular restrictions, that’s a good place to start to determine whether those restrictions still make sense for your community.  
  1. Do the governing documents of your association regulate items that are particularly problematic in your community? For instance, does your association have challenges with rental units or home businesses that aren’t adequately addressed in the governing documents? Are these issues significant enough to merit inclusion in the governing documents? 

When asking these questions and undertaking a review of the appropriateness of the restrictions for your community, it’s essential to engage in a dialogue with residents to gain a real understanding of their values and priorities for the community.  Failing to take this important step could be a recipe for disaster!