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Community Associations

Addressing Problems with Vehicles and Parking

Some of the most troublesome issues for community owners and managers pertain to vehicle parking and driving. Few problems are more frustrating than vehicles that block fire lanes, obstruct roadways, interfere with access to facilities, and detract from the overall visual appearance of the community. Many managers spend countless hours each month policing these problems, to no avail, with a feeling of helplessness. However, carefully drafted lease or rule provisions will inform the residents of what is expected of them regarding vehicles and parking. Such provisions can significantly minimize vehicle problems within the community, give managers greater enforcement powers and significantly reduce the aggravation suffered by the property owner and management.

I regularly receive telephone calls from distraught property owners and managers who feel helpless in dealing with vehicle issues. Surprisingly, when I review the lease documents and other applicable rules, I find few, if any, provisions that adequately address the vehicle problems that are causing the aggravation. I then have the owner or manager provide me with a laundry list of the types of problems they are encountering and an overview of what they ideally would like the parking and vehicle situation to look like in their community. After assessing those items, appropriate lease or rule provisions can be drafted. Thereafter, I rarely, and sometimes never, receive calls concerning vehicle problems from that particular landlord. To the contrary, in many cases I receive phone calls many months later informing me that the vehicle issues have been resolved and that the managementí s aggravation level has decreased significantly.

Below is a list of some general concepts that should be addressed in rental agreements and rules in order to help minimize vehicle and parking problems, and to diminish the anguish that owners and property managers frequently suffer:

  • Establish a workable, reasonable speed limit within the community. If excessive speed is a major problem in your community, you might consider, depending on the laws in your jurisdiction, installing appropriate speed bumps. Professionally engineered speed bumps can virtually ensure that vehicles will not exceed a pre-established speed limit.

  • Specify the maximum number of vehicles allowed per unit. If you have the ability, issue decals or placards that authorize parking, to help ensure that only authorized vehicles are parked in your community.

  • Identify the types of vehicles that are not allowed to park in your community. For example, some communities prohibit overnight parking of commercial vehicles, pull trailers, buses, trucks over a certain weight, etc. This type of restriction not only helps eliminate larger, obstructive vehicles from your community, but can help the community look more visually pleasing as well.

  • Specify precisely where vehicles can and cannot park. Your residents need to know what is permissible and what is not permissible, in clear, unambiguous terms.

  • Prohibit parking in fire lanes and other areas that are critical for emergency access;

  • Prohibit residents from parking at another residentís homesite, without the consent of both the other residents and the property manager;

  • If "on street" parking is permitted, consider limiting it to daylight hours only, or other pre‑established hours;

  • Specify where vehicles cannot be driven, such as across unpaved areas, landscaped areas, etc.;

  • Prohibit loud vehicles, loud music from vehicles, or otherwise offensive vehicles, such as those that smoke and drip fluids;

  • Limit or Prohibit the use of vehicles for recreational purposes within the community, such as motorcycles, ATVís, golf carts, etc.;

  • Prohibit excessive quantities of vehicles visiting residents, particularly during quiet hours. A carefully drafted provision of this nature can help minimize or even eliminate illegal drug problems by reducing the quantity of "traffic" to a residentís unit. Oftentimes landlords suspect that drug activity is occurring, but they donít have hard proof to support a termination of the tenancy. Therefore, a backdoor approach might be helpful, giving you the right to terminate a tenancy if the resident has excessive vehicle traffic to their unit.

  • Prohibit vehicles that do not run, that are damaged and not repaired, that do not have a current license tag, etc. This will help minimize the overall quantity of vehicles in the community and reduce the quantity of vehicles that are eyesores or merely stored. After all, due to the quantity of vehicles parked in a rental community, the appearance of the vehicles are often the first impression that a potential resident observes, and which can cause a potential resident to either further pursue tenancy or leave the property and look elsewhere;

  • Impose time limits for the loading and unloading of recreational vehicles, boats, cars etc., if parked in streets or driveways. Many managers complain that recreational vehicles are parked for days on end for purposes of readying them for a trip, when the RV could in actuality have been loaded in an hour if the tenant had been organized and prepared;

  • Clearly designate parking areas for visitors, and prohibit residents from parking in those areas to ensure that there is appropriate parking for visitors;

  • Many tenants enjoy recreational activities, such as camping and boating, and look for communities that have RV storage available. If you have room available for an RV storage area, you might consider establishing one. Further, you might, depending on the laws in your jurisdiction, be able to establish stricter policies and liability waivers that might otherwise not be permitted under your local landlord‑tenant laws.  Storage areas can also be a good source of revenue and a great marketing tool.

  • You must address the issues of vehicle washing, repairs, and vehicles leaking fluids. Many landlords provide a vehicle washing area. Those that do not typically either prohibit vehicle washing or limit it to certain days and hours. One certain way to sour existing tenants and drive away potential tenants is to allow vehicles to be repaired within the community. Few things are worse than vehicles up on blocks, auto parts spread around the parking area, spilled oil and fluids, and the disturbing clunking of tools;

  • Vehicles that are leaking fluids should be required to have the leaks repaired (if significant), or a drip pan or pad put in place to absorb any leaks. The resident should also be required to clean‑up any leaks or spills;

  • Require your residents to be responsible for the driving and parking behavior of their visitors. Place the duty on the residents to confirm that their visitors are properly parked, and to educate their visitors on any parking or driving that may be questionable.

  • If your jurisdiction permits, give yourself the right to tow vehicles that are improperly parked, and to assess the towing charges to the offending resident.

The overall goal of the parking and vehicle restrictions should be to instead establish reasonable, clear‑cut parameters that will benefit the community as a whole. To the extent that the aggravation of the owner and property managers are reduced, that is an added bonus.

Keep in mind that the foregoing general outline is not all inclusive and that each community must evaluate its own particular needs, concerns, and the laws of the local jurisdiction. Additionally, I always recommend that property owners and managers consult with a qualified attorney regarding any such issues, since I strongly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (or in some cases, many pounds of cure).

 
          

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