How to keep your condo rules in line with your residents and avoid condo association problems
When the demographics of your condo or homeowner association start to change with an influx of younger residents problems can and often will arise. Is it possible to keep your longtime, solid, stable (and barely breathing)) residents content while welcoming the new brigade? Can you strike a happy medium while keeping with the times and collectively and cooperatively building toward the future?
It's a common problem, especially in Florida, where many condos started as havens for snowbirds who flocked down in droves during the winter months but then headed back during the summer months leaving many condos empty from May through November. When residents passed away or wanted to capitalize on the booming real estate market, families and younger people started picking them up. Rules that made sense for a snowbird community no longer seem as relevant for the newer residents who may have different needs. Issues start to come up as newer, often younger residents start challenging and questioning rules.
Some examples of rules that newer residents want to change:
- No pets
- No furniture on balcony
- Restrictions on decorations – Flying a flag, putting up Christmas lights, etc.
- Swing sets in the common area
Seems reasonable to question these, right?
Or it could be that all of a sudden more kids are part of the community and the older residents aren't digging it and are constantly lodging complaints even though it's perfectly okay for kids to be there. It's change and especially for the older set– change can be difficult to embrace.
These rules may have made perfect sense, when the building was primarily a snow bird community but now that you have year round residents, maybe not so much. Problem is at the last board meeting when one of the newer residents brought up the idea of allowing cats, it almost caused WWIII. People started yelling before they were even willing to hear out the reasons. In their mind, cats would lead to a smelly, dirty environment. Crazy. Imagine what would've happened if they broached the subject of dogs? Probably the bulk of the community would've keeled over.
These issues, although seemingly small, can divide a community and make it undesirable to live or buy there. Word starts getting out that it's not a great place to live, and all of a sudden property values start dropping. But the real impact is on the people living there who stop wanting to participate in association meetings, and instead do everything possible to avoid social situations and common areas.
As an association board, how do you handle it? Here are 5 tips to help your association deal with a changing population in your community:
- View your association as a business first: You may have strong personal feelings about pets, decorations and a number of other rules at your association, but you and the board need to separate your personal feelings from what makes good business sense. Once you start looking at the issues from a business standpoint it makes it much easier to determine how your association should evolve, or not.
- Determine if new requests support your Associations Mission, Vision and Values: This goes hand in hand with Tip #1. If you haven't been viewing your association as a business then you may not have a mission, vision or values so this should be your first step. Identify why the association exists, where you want it to go and what values are important to the community. With those in place it makes it much easier to determine if a change in rules or new requests aligns well with the overall scheme of things? Hopefully every association has as part of its mission something to the effect of “wanting to create a great environment to live”. Something as simple as a collective mission statement is enough to open up a dialogue for possible change.
- Be open to change: Don't get stuck in keeping rules in place just because “it's always been that way”. Rules are made to be broken sometimes and everyone needs to be open to listening to new ways of thinking to determine if they will add value to the association and further along the mission and vision.
- Be willing to ask Why?: This goes hand in hand with being open to change. It's a good practice to periodically review your Condo rules and ask Why do we have this? Does it still make sense? This practice can help you stay ahead of the game and keep your rules in line with community and lifestyle trends.
- Don't tolerate rudeness and disrespect: Not from your residents, not from your board members or anyone who lives or works in your community. If you have someone who constantly interrupts, raises their voice for no reason and is divisive in meetings and interactions with residents, put them on probation or remove them from the board meetings. Don't let a couple “bad apples” ruin the whole bunch.
Community Associations, when well run, can have tremendous benefits. Where they get their bad names is when board members put their personal agenda above what's best for the the majority of its residents. You can't please everyone nor should you have to. But you can run a fair and cooperative association that strives to close the new and old brigade of Association Residents. Sometimes it helps to bring in an outsider to help transition your board from one that runs on emotion to one that views itself as a business and makes good business decisions. PeytonBolin can help you Master the Business of your Association. Contact us today!