A Fine Line Penalties Meant to Enforce Compliance with Condo Rules

Break the rules. Pay a fine. Repeat.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work—but community associations that don’t keep penalties for rules infractions up to date may find that residents consider it easier (and possibly cheaper) to pay fines than comply with the regulations.

“I recall reading a set of documents—they had to do with one of the row houses in Boston, a building with six units and parking in the alley behind it,” says attorney Henry A. Goodman, a partner at the law firm of Goodman, Shapiro & Lombardi, LLC in Dedham, Massachusetts. “In the bylaws, it said anyone who parked there would be charged $5 for each day their car was parked in the alley. Well, in downtown Boston, I’ll take that!” he exclaims. The decades-old fine, he says, was changed after the board agreed to update the penalty—but not before some residents had enjoyed a really great deal for a really long time.

Out-of-date fines, like out-of-date rules, are most often discovered when a new law firm or new manager arrives on the scene, or when a non-compliance problem reaches the “egregious” stage, Goodman says.

“Boards tend not to be proactive on rules,” David J. Levy, PCAM, president of Sterling Services in Holliston, Massachusetts, agrees. “When an event becomes intractable, that’s when they create a rules committee and go through the rules” and take a closer look at the fines attached to non-compliance.

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