Q&A: Changing the Parking Rules

Q When I moved into my condo, the bylaws said that vehicles are limited to standard motor cars (no boats, no trailers, no motor homes and no commercial vehicles). That was in 2005 and I have a pickup truck and my wife has an SUV. When we moved in our property was being managed by one particular property management company. Now 6 years later, a new management company has taken over. They recently sent us a letter stating that the vehicle restrictions are as follows: (no trucks, pickup trucks, vans with sliding sides, recreational vehicles (RV’s), trailers, motorcycles, or commercial vehicles of any kind). Also unlicensed or inoperable vehicles are not permitted to park on the association property. My question is can the property management company make this kind of change that affects people who had a vehicle that was OK when the condominium was bought?

—Grandfathered In

A “Restrictions on the type of vehicle that may be parked on the association common property are not uncommon and are generally enforceable,” says Somerville-based attorney Mark D. Imbriani.

“You need to review the original master deed to see exactly what restrictions were imposed on the parking of vehicles. Although you indicated that the restriction is found it the association bylaws, I would expect that the vehicle restriction is actually contained within the master deed covenants. However, in either case, amendments to the master deed and/or bylaws must be adopted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the bylaws. Most bylaws provide that any change in the master deed or bylaws be approved by a vote of the unit owners at a meeting of the unit owners held for that specific purpose. The property management company is an agent of the association. While the board will often delegate to the managing agent the responsibility to assist the association with the enforcement of the restrictive covenants, a property management company does not have the power to amend the master deed or bylaws. You should ask the association management company to provide you with a copy of the provision of the master deed or bylaws imposing the restrictions set forth in the letter you received.

“The circumstances you describe may also reflect a change in the association policy concerning the enforcement of restrictions that were already contained with the original master deed or bylaws. It is not uncommon when a change in management company occurs for the association to more aggressively enforce restrictions that may not have been enforced in the past. This is often perceived as a “change” in the restrictions or rules and regulations by unit owners. However, the fact that a particular restriction or covenant may not have been enforced in the past does not necessarily render the restriction or covenant unenforceable in the present. Most master deeds include language stating that a failure by the association to enforce any provision therein contained for any period of time shall not be deemed a waiver or estoppel of the association’s right to thereafter enforce that same provision. Thus, the association may enforce any valid restriction contained within the master deed or bylaws.

“In answer to your question you need to carefully review the original master deed covenant relating to restrictions on the types of vehicles that may be parked on the common property. Compare the original restriction on vehicles to the language in the letter you received from the management company. If the language is different you need to ask the managing agent to explain to you when and how the change was made. You may come to find that the language cited was actually in the original master deed. However, if the vehicle restriction was changed and if the association adopted the amendment in accordance with the by-laws the new vehicle restriction will be enforceable.”

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