What can an HOA or condominium association do when activity is occurring within the community that appears to be objectionable, but which is not specifically addressed in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions or other association governing documents? The clear answer, if the association wants enforcement power, is to amend the governing documents by following the proper procedure. Vague restrictions are difficult to enforce, and we always recommend amending governing documents to make restrictions as clear as possible. Unfortunately, as most association members are aware, the amendment process can take some time.
What if the objectionable activity needs to be addressed quickly? Examples that come to mind are dogs that are kept outside all night with continuous barking, cars parked in front yards, or clearly using a home primarily for business purposes. Association governing documents may not specifically address these types of activities, which makes enforcement by the association difficult, if not impossible.
At times we have had success in looking to see if an objectionable activity may be in violation of a local ordinance. Oftentimes, associations do not think to look to the local ordinances as they are focused on whether the activity violates their governing documents. However, local ordinances or codes are always applicable. Ordinances may address parking in yards, building setback violations, property use, and even rental regulations. Animal control ordinances sometimes classify excessive barking as a nuisance. Furthermore, when association property is finally developed, there are often zoning conditions placed on a property that could prevent certain uses. For example, a zoning condition may prevent running a business out of the home.
Again, the best way for an association to have enforcement power is to have clear and specific restrictions in their governing documents. But always check ordinances to see if issue is covered there as well. That may also be a cheaper solution! The attorneys at Black, Slaughter and Black, P.A. are happy to assist your community association in amending the Declarations or other governing documents to address specific issues or to explore whether local ordinances may offer more immediate assistance and relief.