Co-op, condo and HOA boards are tasked with a great many responsibilities – including determining and promoting both the day-to-day and longer-term interests of their residents. That's a tall order, and it's largely achieved through the implementation of rules and regulations designed to serve those interests while prohibiting activity that could be detrimental to the community.
But what may be deemed ‘detrimental’ doesn’t always stay the same from year to year, or from one board administration to another. An association’s bylaws are superseded by the municipal, state and federal laws of the land, so sometimes forces outside of an association's control will dictate changes that need be made to its policies. In other instances, changing culture, owner demographics, and other factors can push a board to adjust its community’s governing policies to reflect those evolving priorities.
For example, a 14-building co-op in New York City several years ago lifted a ban on walking on the property's grass. This may not sound like a particularly high-stakes move, but in New York City, space is at a premium, greenery is rare, and the ban had been in place since the property's inception. But eventually, a younger demographic – many of whom had children and pets – overwhelmingly felt that the lawn was to be enjoyed, not just to be observed and maintained.
So what motivates a board to revisit a long-standing rule? Conversely, why might it stand its ground? How frequently do boards make the progressive choice over defending their conservative policies?
Smoking is one issue that has caused a great deal of debate in multifamily communities for decades now. Americans once smoked cigarettes at work, on planes, while pregnant, in restaurants – whenever – and then suddenly it was barred from nearly all public spaces, and most private ones too. Now with an increase in marijuana legalization, a different type of smoking is picking up Big Tobacco’s slack. Community associations frequently find themselves navigating turbulent waters when adapting rules and regulations to address the clouds of cannabis.