appy New Year everyone. 2017 is here. 17 years ago at the turn of the millennium, it seemed like a lifetime away. I hope you all are healthy, happy, and safe. I want to put out positive messages as much as I can this year. However, people come to my website and blogs for guidance and I am in a good position to provide it. So, for my first post of the new year, I'm going to address a subject that is somewhat personal, but also which has earned me a considerable sum over the years as legal counsel. I am speaking from experience and talking about dealing with too many vehicles in HOAs.
In California, driving around looking for a parking space is common practice. When at home, people get very frustrated when they can't find a parking space at the back door. Some just park outside their crammed garage. Many people could park even closer to their backdoor if they cleared a space in their garage.
Over the 30 years I have practiced HOA law in this state, parking has always been one of the most prevalent issues. Why, because developers plan for a couple vehicles per home. Many have two car garages and the intent is they will use those garages for parking their vehicles. If the board doesn't do anything about encouraging, or requiring, owners to keep garages clear for parking cars, there is a very good chance this omission will lead to unexpected substantial legal fees in dealing with neighborhood wars and an overabundance of vehicles coupled with a shortage of parking spaces. Right now, if I have a visitor, they might have to park way down the street. The visitor parking spaces are all usurped by residents. You might be saying "waa, waa, whats the big deal?" The big deal is that I see the problem in my own HOA growing. And I have seen how out of control it can get working with many clients.
So what is the problem? People move into a condo or townhouse with a two or three car garage and immediately start planning on how they will use it. Some even plan to park two or three cars in their garages. But then these kinds of things happen: people take forever to unpack after moving, relatives move-in and bring their stuff, people get roommates, kids cannot afford to move out and get a big enough place to take their own stuff, so they leave it at the parents. Grandparents die and leave their stuff that ends up in their children's garages. When people move-in, husband and wife have a vehicle, and then the kids become teenagers, they also have vehicles. People decide they want to use their garages for extra rooms for living, extra space for businesses, or business storage, extra space for a workout room, day care kids, or man cave, and before you know it, the paltry and limited unrestricted or visitor parking spaces fill up earlier and earlier each day, as residents change their schedules to mark their territory. People start to expect they will have a space or spaces. Since more and more cars are brought into the development, some people are taking up two or three parking spaces when there might be only six or seven open parking spaces for 20 or more units. I see this happening in my own development which is a beautiful condominium association by a marina. I see more and more garages filled with stuff, and more and more cars parking in the common area. There is a public street out front, but residents of the Association in large part don't want to put their cars out there.
Associations that enforce reasonable parking rules have a reasonable chance of chance of avoiding the big problems. Boards that pay attention are providing a service to the Association. Boards that require owners to park at least one vehicle in the garage and that limit parking in the Association common areas are being proactive. If a board does not have the authority to make people park in their garages in the CC&Rs, they could limit parking in the open spaces to one vehicle per unit on a first come, first served basis so that residents need to park all overflow vehicles outside the development. Boards that don't do any of these things are letting the burden for future boards pile up. Then, the day comes, and the Association has to spend thousands on legal fees to stop the battles and bring things back to reason by getting good parking rules and processes in place. Many people wonder "what happened?" How did things get so bad?. Most try to blame everyone else but themselves.
There are not very many people that want to be a whistle-blower or cause trouble. I like my neighbors very much, but I have to say when I drive or walk each day or leave in the morning and see people parking in front of their garages, I have to ask "how does this happen?" I can answer my own question - its not rocket science - they simply ignore the reminder we get in the newsletter that people are not allowed to park in front of the garages.
If people park in front of garages or in the driveway areas In our Association, and there is a serious health incident or fire, emergency vehicles will have difficulty navigating the circular driveway when cars are parked in front of the garages. Do you think if someone dies because an emergency vehicle could not get through there would be a big lawsuit against the owners who ignored the rules? Probably not. But you can bet the Association would be sued for failure to enforce the restriction of parking in front of garages. Sometimes "nice guys" do finish last.
In my many years of practicing HOA law, I would say eight times out of 10, HOAs that come to me to update and restate their governing documents have a common area parking issue toresolve. And 8 times out of 10 it was because the prior board did nothing about violations of parking rules.
This newsletter is my forum. It is also my opportunity to enlighten. I'm going to provide it to my own Association and express concern about fact that residents are filling up their garages and using all of the common area parking spaces that are supposed to be available for temporary day or short overnight parking and visitor parking for permanent resident parking. I might be blowing smoke. But I would like to be proactive and let all boards know that if you that if you don't do something about kinds of problems I am describing in the early stages, residents will become entitled and then it will be much harder to reverse the abuse.
Here are some tips at least as I don't like to complain without offering solutions:
I cannot tell you what your CC&Rs allow or do not allow or what authority they have to adopt good rules and policies without reviewing them, but I can provide some general tips.
Most governing documents allow boards to inspect garages. In order to avoid grumbling about discriminating against any particular owner, a good way to handle the matter of inspections is to communicate that all garages will be inspected on a certain date. If the garage doors have windows in them, the board can look in if people don't open up their garages.
If owners are uncooperative in any way, or in violation or any restrictions, the Board could put a process in place for failure to cooperate. The board could start with a simple request and follow with a demand, and then a hearing to consider fines.
Owners could be given a moratorium of 30 or 60 days for clearing sufficient space for vehicles. Some boards require space be cleared only for one vehicle even when there is a two car garage, trying to be reasonable.
Setting good, realistic boundaries is the best way to move forward. People generally respond to boundaries. Parking two or three vehicles in limited common area parking spaces should be out of bounds. Parking in front of the garage or in a fire lane in a manner that would block emergency vehicles definitely needs to be addressed.
C'mon. People who violate reasonable rules are discourteous. People who are allowed to continuously violate reasonable rules at some point will slide over into an assumption of entitlement and that is when the board's job gets a lot harder.
Give people information on local storage spaces nearby.
Have a development wide garage sale and encourage people to clean out their garages, sell their stuff, and have the leftovers picked up by Goodwill.
Put out a call for members in the community willing to help people move some of their smaller items out of the garage, to the Goodwill store, or to a storage space. Some goodhearted people will share their pickup trucks space and help the older folks load stuff up.
Try to make it a community project. People feel better about joining a community effort than being targeted as rules violators.
The more resources that you can dredge up and offer, the more cooperation you will get, because some people just don't have the means or desire to do anything until someone offers to help or someone lights a fire under them.
I didn't fill this newsletter with laws and policies for enforcement of any restriction including parking, garages, towing, etc. However, there are a number of low cost primers available on my website that will give you everything you need to know about setting policy. There are five enforcement primers which range from basic enforcement to intermediate to specialized areas like neighbor to neighbor issues and parking and towing, and there is even a forms primer to help with rule setting, policy, and communications with owners. The first two of these primers cover everything from how to set good rules and policies to implementing disciplinary action.
Start 2017 out right. Make it a priority to be proactive with problems that could get out of hand.
The 2017 Davis-Stirling Act is available now along with the Primers in the Webstore, in PDF or snail mail format. Don't be confused about the law!
Lots of resources are available including articles, blogs, E-news archives, Primers and Guides, and other publication like books, on
all subjects here on the website.
Check out the SPECIAL link to the 2014 Reorganized Davis Stirling Act at www.californiacondoguru.com/mainpage.html. You will find lots of resources when you click on it.
And perhaps best of all - at least for small associations - look forward to my book coming out sometime this year-The Ultimate Small HOA Survival Guide.
Many publications as well as the 2016 Davis-Stirling Act in Plain English which explains all of the laws discussed above are available in the Guru Webstore.
Just go to the webstore and navigate to the store directly. Check out the articles, E-news archives and blogs first to see if you can find what you need here at the website. When ready, go to the store and see that there are tabs for the Books, Primers, Forms and Guides.
Be sure also to visit the website and sign up for the next free E-News now! It's never too late. And watch the blogs for the hottest topics! If you want to unsubscribe, please do so when you get the newsletter. Sending an email doesn't always work because I don't keep the list, Constant Contact does.
I have a private law practice in Pleasant Hill, but serve homeowners association and homeowners throughout the State of California. My practice is in large part now web based and telephone consultations are available. I have clients all over the state and am a real "road warrior".
The information provided here is for advertising and informational use only and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Everyone should consult with legal counsel in all cases where legal representation or advice is desired.
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