By: Barbara G. Hager
So, it’s Christmas and I want to put up decorations at my townhouse (condo). Can I put a wreath on my front door? Can I put a balloon Santa in front of my unit? Can I string lights on my deck railing? Or did I read somewhere that I can only put lights up on the inside of my unit? The answer will be found in the association’s rules.
I look in my files and find four sets of rules!! There is one with the most recent date, but it says “draft” on it. Then there is the old one I got when I moved in over ten years ago, with my re-sale package. I know that one was recorded on the land records because it has volume and page numbers at the top of each page. It must be the official rules! But then there is that other one, a few years later that is unsigned but says the year it was adopted. And finally, there is one with no date at all, but the printing looks more modern so maybe that is the “real” rules? And each of these four sets of rules has different rules about holiday decorations!
This scenario is common in a number of associations. After a few years, there seems to be several “versions” of the Rules floating around the community. No one can tell anymore which are the “official rules.” This puts the association’s board in a tricky position. If there are violations of the rules, to be able to fine the violator (after notice and hearing) the association must be able to show which exact rule has been broken and how it has been broken. And, more importantly, unit owners need to know for certain which rules they are supposed to follow. Without this clarity it may be next to impossible to enforce the rules, and levy fines for breaking them.
The answer to this problem is to record the association’s rules on the land records. This is the best practice to avoid possible confusion. Do this each time they are amended. A court will most likely view the most recent recorded version as the most valid set of rules, the “official” rules. Each time the rules are amended, record them on the land records. Then all Unit Owners will be able to determine which are the “latest” rules, and that those are the ones they are to follow.