Every condominium has its own set of rules, which residents are obliged to follow, and condominium boards are obligated to enforce. These rules set the standard for life in the association and for some play a big role in the decision to purchase a particular condominium unit. Rules are essential to a condominium association as they provide certainty and order; protect the freedom and safety of residents; clarify provisions in the governing documents; and protect common areas and property values.
When an owner or owners are not following rules, it is important for condominium boards to act to enforce the rules. This not only ensures that the expectations of all residents are being met but also helps ensure that the rules are not subject to being overturned as selective enforcement of rules could lead to invalidation by a Court. In order to enforce the rules, Board should start with the following process: (1) send a cease and desist letter, identifying the problem and what should be done to correct it; (2) schedule a hearing to be held at a specific date and time, should the violation not be corrected; (3) hold a hearing if the violation remains ongoing and have the violator provide their perspective; and (4) make a decision and determine what penalty (if any) will be imposed.
If the violation persists after a hearing is held and a decision is rendered or if the violation is more urgent in nature, it may be necessary to file suit an obtain a declaratory judgment with injunctive relief in order to enforce a condominium’s rules and regulations. Should an association be forced to bring suit to enforce its rules and regulations and be successful in this suit, the Massachusetts Condominium Act indicates that the association is entitled to all costs and attorney’s fees incurred in bringing suit. This can be a powerful tool for condominium associations as an award of attorney’s fees brings with it the ability to place a lien on the offending owners unit and potentially initiate a foreclosure proceeding against the unit.
Should you have an issue with rules enforcement at a condominium, please contact A&M to discuss what methods is best for the situation and for a particular condominium. If you are interested in learning more about rules and their enforcement [click here] for the Powerpoint that Norm presented at the CAI’s Board Leader Workshop at CAI New England Massachusetts Condominium Conference and Expo on October 21, 2023.