Parking Enforcement by Homeowners' Associations

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One of the hot button issues faced by homeowners’ associations and their members is what types of rules and regulations can apply to parking within a community.  While parking regulations can help to assure that owners have reasonable parking options available to them, they can also be so restrictive that it is difficult to have guests visit.  In addition, in some cases, associations that have exerted too much power in this area have begun issuing hefty fines for parking violations which become further bones of contention within members of the community.  This article is designed to give a basic overview of how parking regulations and rules can be enforced by homeowners’ associations. 

It is important to note that there are significant differences in state law in this area so it will be very important to know and understand the law of the state where the HOA community in question is located.  It is also important to understand the basis for the particular rules and regulations that govern a community with regard to parking.  Often the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) include restrictions on types of vehicles that may be parked in the community (for example RV’s and boats).  However, the HOA may also enact separate rules and regulations as part of its regular rulemaking process.  For this reason, it is critical to understand exactly what is included in the community CC&Rs and rules so that compliance and enforcement efforts are appropriate to what they provide.  In addition, homeowners’ associations must also be reasonable and consistent in the enforcement of parking regulations within the community. 

Typical HOA Parking Rules

Most homeowners’ associations have the following basic parking rules:  

  • Prohibited Vehicles

Most associations also have rules about certain types of vehicles that are not permitted. This may include commercial vehicles (any vehicle with signage), RV’s, junk vehicles, trailers, campers, boats and similar vehicles.  These rules and regulations are designed to protect the beauty of the neighborhood and maintain a standard appearance for all properties.

  • PARKING LOCATIONS

Generally, community associations have rules about where within the community owners can park. Depending on the type of community, this could be in the owner’s driveway.  In apartment style communities there may be assigned parking spots for owners and perhaps visitors as well.  This type of regulation varies greatly depending on the type of community that it is.  Some associations may also prohibit members from parking in front of another member’s home.  Enforcement of this type of restriction can vary depending on whether the HOA community includes public and private streets within the property. 

  • ABANDONED VEHICLES

Some HOA communities prohibit owners from parking in a particular spot for longer than a specified amount of time which could be 24 hours or something similar.  Often the basis for this is to ensure that HOA members are not parking abandoned vehicles on the property for an extended period of time.  This can also be applied to specific types of vehicles such as boats, trailers, rvs, campers and the like.  The idea behind that is that if an owner is merely temporarily parking such a vehicle in the community, that is not a problem but most HOA communities do not want such vehicles to be stored in the community. 

Limits of Authority: Public vs. Private Streets

In general, HOA’s have the authority to regulate private streets within their development.  However, for public streets that are within the development, typically an HOA does not have authority to enforce parking restrictions in those areas.  This can vary depending on the state’s law that is applicable to the HOA community.  One exception to this general concept is that for restrictions contained in the CC&Rs that are filed in the real estate records and run with the land, those are thought to be legally enforceable even on public streets because it is something that was part of the original documents that run with the land.  However, this would only be true for enforcement against homeowners who are bound to the covenants.  In addition, this is a civil matter. 

Enforcing Parking Restrictions

A common question that arises with regard to HOA parking rules and regulations is whether an association can tow vehicles, issue parking tickets, and speeding tickets.  To some extent, these issues depend on whether the alleged violation occurred on a public or private street within the development as noted above.  It is much more difficult if not impossible for an HOA to issue things like speeding tickets on a public roadway.  In addition, most HOAs do not legally possess power to do things such as issuing a speeding ticket. 

It is also important to note that an HOA can post speed limits and the like within the community, regardless of whether it is a public road.  For example, if it is a public road, the law enforcement body involved could write tickets and the like.  If it is a private road, the HOA as owner is responsible for enforcement of those issues but those are civil matters that typically would then end up in a civil action if the matter isn’t resolved between the HOA and the homeowner directly. 

It is possible for HOA’s to tow vehicles if they are improperly parked.  While there are state law variations in this area, most states permit HOA’s to tow vehicles that are improperly parked if there is a prior written notice to the HOA member of the parking restrictions, a written authorization for the tow has been provided by the HOA and the tow is properly reported to local traffic law enforcement.  It is wise for the HOA to carefully consider when towing is truly appropriate though because this often leads to larger disputes among homeowners.  There may be a more effective and efficient way to resolve such a dispute that falls short of towing.

Moreover, depending on applicable state law, some HOA’s may have a process to suspend an owner’s rights to park or use other amenities within the community if they fail to follow the parking regulations. This is a fairly drastic result that typically must be achieved by following a detailed process including notice of violations and an opportunity to correct. This is also typically only used when there is a habitual or continual violation that has been addressed through other means previously.

HOAs Must Comply with Federal Law

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well As HUD regulations, homeowners’ associations can be required to provide reasonable accommodations to their policies and procedures and potentially some modifications to common use areas.  This topic is much broader than the scope of this article, therefore, we invite you to get familiar with the federal laws that apply to HOAs.  It is important for HOA’s and their members to understand that there can be circumstances where the general HOA rules and policies apply, that modifications may be necessary in order to provide accommodations for residents or potentially members of the public as the case might be. 

Resolving HOA Parking Violations

The first place for an HOA member to start when dealing with speeding tickets, violation notices and fines issued by a homeowners’ association is to review the CC&Rs and rules and regulations to determine if (1) the association has the power to regulate and enforce parking, and (2) there is process that must be followed if the HOA member feels that an appeal is necessary.  The worst thing an HOA member can do is to simply ignore the violations for a variety of reasons.  This causes a strained relationship between the HOA member and the board as well as other homeowners within the community.  Sometimes an in person discussion between the affected homeowner and a board member is the best place to start.  Thereafter, a formal appeal process may be followed to attempt to resolve the issue.

Arizona Law Restricts HOA Parking Enforcement

In 2013 the state of Arizona passed a new law that affects the rights of future HOA communities to set rules with regard to parking.  This new law did not affect existing HOAs, only those formed after 2014.  The basic premise of the law is that HOAs formed after 2014 are prohibited from making regulations that regulate public streets within the neighborhood.  This was the result of many years of complaints that were made to Arizona lawmakers by frustrated homeowners.  The interesting thing is now Arizona has a split of communities that can regulate such issues and those that cannot.  On the one hand, that is a positive as it gives homeowners a choice with regard to which regime they might live under.  The idea behind parking regulations and similar rules is to protect neighborhoods while still balancing that need with the need to insure that homeowners will have reasonable usage of their property.  This is not always an easy balancing act and it will be interesting to see how other states follow Arizona’s example with regard to the regulation of parking by HOA’s.