Category Archives: Rules

An unbiased, unfiltered guide to 2018 midterm election signs

Getty Images/Alexeys

The 2018 midterm elections are less than two weeks away, which means, of course, campaign signs are popping up like dandelions in yards and along roads.

These signs become a particular pain point for community associations every election season. Without fail, some communities end up on the evening news or in the local newspaper for attempting to enforce their covenants on signs.

We asked James A. Gustino, a community association attorney in Winter Garden, Fla., to provide some guidance on the subject. What should associations do about the signs? This is what he had to say:

Strict enforcement of association sign prohibitions, particularly as they relate to political signs on an owner’s property during the election season, is almost always unwise.

Check your state’s highest court rulings and the specific “freedom of speech” verbiage in your state’s constitution. Most federal and state courts currently don’t protect political signs from association enforcement. However, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a pair of decisions in 2012 and 2014 protecting political speech. These opinions could influence other state courts considering similar legal issues in the future.

Covenants restricting signs often incorporate exceptions for security, developer, “for sale” and other board-approved signs. Under such circumstances, an association actively enforcing bans against political signs is unnecessarily exposing itself to charges of selective or arbitrary enforcement. When a ban on signs is universal but an association permits residents’ holiday decorations—another kind of speech—it also exposes itself to claims of selective or arbitrary enforcement. This nuance is often overlooked.

Practically speaking, political signs usually are posted for just a few weeks. By the time the typical association cycles through its standard three noncompliance notifications, the signs will likely have been removed.

Lastly, political beliefs and affiliations—like religious beliefs—tend to produce strong feelings that lead to costly and time-consuming litigation. Even if litigation isn’t the end result, is it sensible to pursue actions that invite unnecessary friction?

I recommend that my clients permit political signs but enact reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. For example:

  • They can only be placed on the property for 45 days prior to an election
  • They must be removed within three days after the election
  • They cannot contain any profanity
  • They must be limited in number
  • They cannot create a sight obstruction or other safety concern.

I also advocate involving community members to help craft the association’s specific restrictions and then prominently posting (via email blasts, special notices on your website and at entry signs) the rules to encourage compliance.

The post An unbiased, unfiltered guide to 2018 midterm election signs appeared first on Ungated: Community Associations Institute Blog.

Smoking Ban Goes Up In … Smoke

A failed smoking ban remains a point of contention between residents at a nearly 40-year-old condominium building in St. Paul, Minn., according to the Star Tribune.

The Gallery Tower board voted to ban smoking in the summer of 2017. The ban, which was due to go into effect this past April, was supposed to apply to units and the balconies outside them, according to reports. However, earlier this year, newly elected board members who smoke took control and voted to rescind the ban before it took effect.

A 19-year resident of the Gallery Tower, Marge Romero, felt she should be able to do what she wants within the confines of her home—and that includes smoking cigarettes.

In January, Romero and two other residents who opposed the smoking ban were elected to the board, and the following month the board voted to rescind the ban, citing it was a big overreach.

Yet that hasn’t stopped other buildings from outright bans.

“I think there has been a definite trend toward banning smoking in condominiums, and I expect that to continue,” says Matt Drewes, president of the CAI Minnesota Chapter. “Efforts at redirecting, controlling, or containing smoke has had mixed results and have often fallen short of making all parties happy, and they come at a certain expense that the owners involved may not be willing or equipped to pay.”

The fight at Gallery Tower may not be over yet. Residents like Jeff Tentinger and his wife, Robin— who spent more than $8,000 on air purifiers—were stunned people needed to vote on a smoking ban in 2018, especially given the health problems related to secondhand smoke.

States, cities, and other local governments have been moving to ban smoking in public places for years. Residents of public housing facilities in the U.S. can no longer smoke in or near the buildings in a new rule that went into effect July 31.

Many community associations have been outlawing the practice in common areas and on amenities but letting owners continue to smoke inside their units. Some condominiums are trending toward full bans, yet as the Gallery Tower situation proves, they may have a fight on their hands.

The post Smoking Ban Goes Up In … Smoke appeared first on Ungated: Community Associations Institute Blog.

Are Our Rules Reasonable?

Rules and regulations help community associations maintain property values and protect a quality of life. These standards are typically described in detail in an association’s governing documents, which all homeowners should have an opportunity to review before purchasing a home in a common-interest community.

Association rules and regulations should be reasonable. When board members—along with their community manager, attorney, and other expert advisors—are reviewing association rules or considering establishing new rules, they should follow these guidelines:

  • Develop rules only if they’re necessary
  • Base rules on the proper authority—either governing documents or local/state/federal law
  • Consider how rules will be enforced, taking extra care to be sure they’re enforced uniformly
  • Implement rules that encourage understanding and compliance
  • Write rules that tell owners what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t, and explain why that rule is necessary

The post Are Our Rules Reasonable? appeared first on Ungated: Community Associations Institute Blog.