8 Best Practices for Dealing With Residents' Junk Cars
What can homeowner and condominium associations do, if anything, about old, junk or unsightly cars in the parking lots or streets under community management? Granted, not every resident is going to have a pristine car gleaming in their driveway like a jewel in the development's crown. Even residents in relatively affluent communities will have teenagers whose old beaters are parked in their driveways or on the street.
Nevertheless, boards of directors have a duty to their association members to protect their interests and property values, and therefore you must address any issues that arise with junk or unsightly vehicles parked around your development.
Here are some best practices for you to consider:
Update Your CC&Rs
Does your association have a written and duly-enacted policy governing automobiles? Was a quorum present when it was passed by the board of directors? Was the meeting at which it was passed advertised in accordance with association bylaws? It may seem pedantic, but these details of due process can be important if the association has a vehicle towed and a resident challenges the association's authority to do so.
Require Parking Permits or Stickers
This forces members and tenants to register their cars with your management. Your staff can then easily locate the owners of any vehicles that may be presenting a problem. It also allows management to track any vehicles that don't belong in the community and identify any unauthorized long-term guests by their vehicles.
Require All Vehicles Be Registered
Most jurisdictions require proof of insurance before you can register the vehicle. If a vehicle is truly non-functional, sooner or later the owner will stop paying insurance premiums on it. Furthermore, this policy will make it easy for you to walk through the lot looking for expired tags. Whoever owns the vehicle should then get a notice that you'll have the vehicle towed after a certain amount of time has elapsed.
Ensure Renters Get Copies of Your CC&Rs
Have language in your CC&Rs requiring all association members to have their renters abide by the generally-applicable car and parking rules.
Have a Formal Tow Policy
It is generally more effective and merciful to tow an offending vehicle than it is to quietly fine an association member and then place a lien on their home to collect those fines.
Staff should photograph the offending vehicle and document why they had it towed. Make absolutely sure local tow laws and the community CC&Rs and other operating documents are followed whenever a car is towed. A tow should never be a surprise to an owner that is paying any attention!
Reserve the Right to Tow Obvious Junk Cars
Sometimes the non-movers are obvious. If a car is up on blocks, has leaves piled up under the tires, has a missing hood, or has one or more flat tires, it's safe to say it hasn't been moved in a while.
For cars like these, your association shouldn't need to wait until the car's tags expire. Your association's CC&Rs should address obvious junk cars and allow you to tow them after a diligent effort to contact the owner of the vehicle has been made.
Address RVs in Association Parking Rules
Sooner or later, someone will want to park a RV, travel trailer or boat somewhere on the property. Rules should already be in existence before this becomes an issue. It's a lot easier to enforce a rule made long before a 50 foot RV gets parked on the street than it is to try to enforce a brand new rule against a family who spent tens of thousands of dollars on their dream rig confident that they'd be able to park it in their yard.
Many associations restrict RV parking to a couple of days per month, allowing the family to load up or unload their RV prior to or following a trip. Associations also often require owners to park their RVs behind their homes or otherwise out of sight.
Always Double-Check Before You Tow!
Here's a real-world example of why this should be your policy: A Florida property manager recently towed a resident's vehicle because a couple of tires had deflated, and the vehicle hadn't been moved in a while. Efforts to contact the resident by mail were unsuccessful. It turned out that the vehicle owner was a reservist, mobilized to serve in Afghanistan for a year, and was not receiving mail. Meanwhile, the Soldiers and Sailors Act applied to any enforcement actions, causing potential liability for the board and bad feelings and regrets all around.
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