Following Ancient Rules? Old Rules Mean New Problems

When considering rules and regulations for their community, board members must decide what is necessary versus what could be burdensome for their building's residents. Times change, as do community mores, population demographics, and individual wants and needs. Rules and regulations that once made sense and reflected the morals and standards of their day can become antiquated, irrelevant, or just plain silly after many years.

Times don't simply change—sometimes they require us to change a bit too, and that may mean taking another look at a rule or discarding it altogether. One key to objectively analyzing your association's rulebook is to consider the view of those on the other side of the rule. Another key to using sound judgment in community rulemaking is getting the counsel of professionals for some of the trickier decisions.

The Importance of Consistency

While many of the documents governing New Jersey's HOA communities are essentially timeless, others are hopelessly archaic. For example, some communities still have rules on their books that date back to the days of the Temperance Movement, says Wendell Smith, a partner in Greenbaum, Rowe Smith & Davis, a law firm in Woodbridge, and one of the authors of New Jersey Condominium & Community Association Law. "One of the things you'll find on old deeds is restrictions against alcohol being used on the property," he says. And not just in the community room or around the swimming pool—anywhere.

And it doesn't stop with wine and spirits. Some still-active community rules active aren't just legally unenforceable—they simply don't make sense. Rules against hitching one's horse-and-buggy to the HOA's signage, or outlawing the use of chewing gum within the association's borders would fall under that heading.

More often than not, though, basic consistency is one of the things most lacking in a community's rules and regulations. One of the most common problems with a community's rules is that the rules don't all agree with each other, says John C. Roberts, owner of JCR Management Services in Point Pleasant.

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