Like most in your Maryland neighborhood, your choice to buy your home was not based solely on the number of bedrooms and the square footage. You also wanted a safe neighborhood where the community worked together to keep the property values high and to provide attractive common spaces you could share with your family and neighbors. Therefore, you choose to purchase your home in a neighborhood with a community association, and then you took the next step and became an active member of that association board.
Your job is not easy, and you may frequently deal with resident complaints and violations of the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for your community. Enforcing these rules fairly and consistently is a challenge for many community associations, especially when association membership and leadership frequently change hands. If you are dealing with inconsistent enforcement of community rules, you may be wondering how to correct this situation to avoid legal issues with your neighbors.
How to make it right
Selective enforcement of rules is a dangerous precedent in any community association. It can imply discriminatory practices and quickly lead to anarchy or even costly lawsuits. Owners who see a neighbor breaking a rule with impunity may have a defense for breaking the same rule or taking legal action when the board sanctions them for the same violation. Perhaps you see this happening now, and you want to take steps to return to a more even-handed enforcement of the rules. Some steps you can take include the following:
- Read the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions and learn them so you are familiar with the rules as soon as a dispute arises.
- Know the by-laws of your board so you can take steps to change anything in the CC&R that may be unfair or discriminatory.
- Provide notice in writing to every resident that the board will begin uniform enforcement of policies on a certain date, particularly those policies which are causing the most disputes.
- Acknowledge that some violations may be grandfathered in, such as pet ownership or permanent structures that were not enforced prior to your notification.
- Begin enforcing the policies consistently when the deadline arrives.
Of course, it is important that every board member is on the same page and has a clear understanding of the ramifications of selective enforcement of association rules. No board member should impose penalties on a resident without the approval of the board. If your board is uncertain about whether its interpretation or enforcement of the rules is appropriate and lawful, you may wish to seek the advice of an experienced attorney.