Understanding Resident Rights

Association board members walk a fine line when it comes to power and authority. While the board is responsible for advancing the collective best interest of the community as a whole, they must also balance this collective need against the needs and concerns of individual residents, as well.

Residents who agree to Association living must understand this balance and recognize that they won’t necessarily have the freedom to, say, decorate their yard with excessive signage and kooky art or have loud, raucous parties whenever they want to with no consequences. 

Nonetheless, there are certain rights that homeowners are guaranteed to in a shared living situation. After all, an Association is the place that many people consider home, and they expect to have certain freedoms within that domicile space. Both board members and homeowners who take the time to familiarize themselves with these guaranteed rights are sure to experience more harmonious living.

Board Powers

To understand resident rights, it’s important to first understand what falls under the purview of the board. In short, the board is responsible for managing all of the different aspects involved in running a successful Association. This can include everything from grappling with financial issues to soliciting insurance and other vendor relationships to help the community thrive.

Most importantly, it’s the board’s job to make sure that all rules and bylaws are properly enforced and that all residents are obeying these core community guidelines. Rather than arbitrarily restricting residents for no reason, these rules and bylaws are created and enforced in order to preserve a high quality of life for everyone in the Association. The best way to learn more about the specific rules and bylaws within your Association is to brush up on your community’s governing documents.

Residents Have Rights, Too

Although Association living has both perks and restrictions that might not be as common in an ordinary neighborhood, it’s still a place where homeowners expect to feel comfortable and welcome. While there are certain laws and other regulations in place to ensure that the board can’t get away with anything that unfairly affects or directly harms homeowners, other basic homeowner rights are established with basic decency and respect in mind.

For example, a homeowner should always have access to important documents — financial or otherwise — when needed, and those documents should be kept organized so that homeowners are able to quickly and easily find what they need. Homeowners should also expect all rules and bylaws to be applied and enforced equally, without any trace of discrimination, and should also be given the opportunity to be heard should the board decide to take punitive action against them.

When it comes to elections, all homeowners should have the right to vote on board candidates and important community issues. If a homeowner is not eligible to vote due to a violation or delinquency, it is the board’s responsibility to inform that person before the vote is held.

These are just some of the many protections that are afforded to homeowners who choose Association living. Once again, the best way to know one’s rights as a homeowner — and when a board might be infringing upon those rights — is to become familiar with the governing documents.

Creating a Healthy Balance

When someone moves into an Association, they expect to give up a certain level of freedom of choice when it comes to things like home décor and pet ownership. At the same time, those residents elect board members who they expect to act fairly, using their best judgment in Association matters. However, everything from differing opinions to ulterior motives can upset this delicate balance.

This often happens with issues of security and privacy. While many residents would agree that tools like security cameras are great for lowering community crime rates, others might raise concerns that this surveillance infringes upon their personal freedoms. Similarly, residents expect to have advanced notice if a maintenance person or other staff member needs to gain access to their individual home or unit. But if a pipe bursts and a resident isn’t there to notify, is that right to privacy null and void?

Ultimately, frequent and clear communication is key to keeping residents feeling respected while still allowing board members to do their job. Keeping all governing documents in a clearly labeled, easily accessible location — such as through a special section on the community website — will ensure that all residents clearly understand the community rules. Continually keeping residents informed of any changes to these regulations as well as the timing and location of board meetings help homeowners and board members better collaborate and understand one another.

When everyone in the community is better informed, the board and homeowners can work together to make sure that residents are respected their community and protected by fair, well-intentioned rules and bylaws.