Most condominium associations’ Declarations and Bylaws give the Board of Directors the power to create and amend Rules and Regulations. But Boards must take caution, because Rules that are well-intentioned and that seem to make sense for your community may be found unenforceable by a court.
Facts. In a 2018 case, owners within a community association brought suit against their HOA asking the court to invalidate a Rule that the HOA Board passed that said homeowners were prohibited from bringing their own personal trainer to assist them with their workouts in the community fitness center. The Association had recently contracted with a company to serve as the community’s “exclusive provider of fitness services” within the HOA fitness center, so that prompted the Board to pass a rule that prohibited owners from bringing in their own personal trainer (a “competitor”). The aggrieved owners noted that there was a provision within the Declaration that stated the use of the fitness center was expressly reserved for the private use and enjoyment of the owners and their “invitees,” and the owners argued that their personal trainer, their “invitee,” had a right to be in the fitness center with them per the Declaration.
Court Rulings. The trial court found for the HOA, comparing the owner’s personal trainer to a “call girl” hoping to solicit business from other owners in the fitness center. The trial court disagreed with the homeowners that the personal trainer was their invited guest (an “invitee”) who was entitled to be present with them in the community fitness center per the Declaration. However, the appellate court disagreed, finding that the personal trainer, whose sole purpose to being in the fitness center was to help the owners he was hired to assist, was most certainly the owners’ invitee, protected by the Declaration. Because the appellate court made this finding, the Board’s Rule was deemed legally invalid because it conflicted with the Declaration. Victory went to the owners, and they could continue to bring their personal trainer with them to the HOA fitness center.
Lesson. Association Boards often have the power to create Rules, which is a handy tool, indeed. However, Boards must take care not to pass any Rule that conflicts with a provision in the Declaration or Bylaws, because that Rule is at risk of being found unenforceable. As with this case, sometimes the conflict is not obvious—that is why it is worth the Association’s time to run it past an expert Association attorney who is more apt to find the lurking conflicts that might sabotage the proposed rule.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Husch Blackwell LLP Condominium and HOA Law Team.