I recently read an article about a homeowner in Texas who received a violation notice from her homeowners association as a result of chalk drawings left on her driveway by her son – something the owner and neighbors do not feel the Association’s governing rules specifically address. The article goes on to state that the owner and her neighbors organized an event where they handed out bundles of chalk to kids from the neighborhood who gathered to decorate their sidewalks and driveways. While this may be a knee-jerk reaction for most folks, intentionally violating the rules in an attempt to “send their neighborhood association a message” may only worsen the situation by subjecting more owners to similar violation notices and potential fines. Though the Association may not have a rule specifically addressing chalk use, most Association’s have rules and regulations that deal with the maintenance and upkeep of a property and require owners to keep their property in a clean, safe, and attractive manner – something “chalk drawing” could surely fall under.
As Molly points out in her blog, Boards have a fiduciary duty to enforce the use restrictions found in the Association’s governing documents and owners have a legal obligation to comply with the use restrictions and rules. In addition, before an Association can levy a fine against an owner for a violation, the Board must first give that individual notice of the alleged violation and an opportunity for hearing to determine whether the violation occurred. Therefore, a more beneficial approach for the disgruntled owners would be to attend a meeting with the Board to discuss the issue and allow for the Board to review the use restrictions and rules to determine whether they still make sense and fit the priorities of the community.
Just as chalk can be easily cleaned up, so can unpractical (and possibly impermissible) use restrictions in governing documents!