Pros and Cons of Parking Restrictions in Homeowners Associations
Whenever I talk to a new condominium or townhouse community that we manage, sooner rather than later they let the cat out of the bag and tell me that they have the most typical of multi-family housing issues: parking! Trust me; I have heard all the stories – from the single guy who has his five classic all parked in someone else’s spot, to the person who had a friend visit and had their car towed from visitor parking after only 45 minutes. (I still don’t know how someone can get a car towed before I can get a pizza). The good news is here, however! I have a solution for all of your needs. All you need to do is spend about 10 million dollars on a multi-deck parking structure with 24/7 armed guards checking fingerprints as people pull their cars into the garage. Ok… maybe that isn’t the best solution for communities that don’t want to raise assessments by a few hundred thousand dollars per resident, so here are a few better options.
The first thing you should do as a board is to realize that there IS NOT a solution that is going to make everyone in your community happy, so no matter what you do you have to prepare yourself for at least a few upset residents. Fortunately, that is the easy part. The hard part is deciding where your community belongs on a shifting scale of being more authoritarian with parking enforcement vs. more lenient and laissez-faire. To decide, let’s go over the pros and cons:
I will start with looser controls. Ultimately this means that there is assigned parking and visitor spaces, but the board doesn’t take the time to get involved in parking disputes. Now, I am not talking about the wild west of parking here. You can still have some control measures, such as posting the towing company information if a resident finds a strange vehicle in their spot and wants to call to get it removed. And of course, if someone sees a car parked in an emergency fire lane, in front of a fire hydrant, or something else that is illegal and a safety concern they can always call the police to have them resolve that issue. We have set a few basic ground rules, so now for the pros and cons.
- Money. Let me repeat this again because this is by far the biggest perk of looser parking enforcement. It is not expensive to let people sort out their parking issues, and for associations on a budget, this may be the best option for not needing to raise assessments or to go into debt to try to solve. For the most part, neighbors will resolve their disputes if someone keeps parking in their spot, and they can always call the tow company if needed. Overall this means you are not spending money on car tags, security patrols, and everything else that goes into stronger enforcement.
- Sure you are saving money, but does that matter when you come home and have a car full of groceries with a few tubs of ice cream and some screaming kids in the back seat, and someone has parked in your spot? I mean, the kids can fend for themselves, but of course, you have to save the ice cream! Your homeowners are not going to stay happy if they are always facing parking problems.
- What I said above goes double if you live next to a location that has a high parking demand. We may not all live next to the Superdome, but if you live downtown and parking anywhere else is $20 I can guarantee you that people will try to save some money by parking in your visitor spots. If this is the case, going with the flow probably isn’t going to work out.
- Structured, assigned parking can offer homeowners peace of mind that they won’t have to worry about some rusted out behemoth taking up their spot. And let’s be honest, many people hate drama so much (myself included) that if their neighbor is parking in their spot they probably won’t say anything or call the towing company. Going with stricter controls places the burden on the association and the management company and can take that burden off the homeowner.
- If your community association owns the parking spaces and assigns them to the residents, it can generate some additional revenue for the association through selling parking tags and permits. While you don’t want to gouge people with ultra-high prices, you can determine how much extra money this will bring in and then apply that to the budget for additional patrols and enforcement. Further, if you are worried about the higher cost, there are some companies out there that will put a boot on a car that is improperly parked and it is up to the owner of the vehicle to pay to get it off.
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Money! Creating and issuing parking tags and permits isn’t cheap, nor is inspection services and everything else that goes into a fully structured parking system.
- If you go to strict on your parking enforcement, you can damage the resident’s perception of the association and create a hostile relationship between the board and the homeowner. People don’t want to break out into a cold sweat when they think about inviting over a few friends because of the ever looming threat of tickets and towing.
If you haven’t discussed where you want to be on that sliding scale of lenient to strict as an homeowners association, it might be time to pencil out a few minutes at the next board meeting to decide which direction you want to go as a community association. It is important to factor in the hard metrics such as cost, but you should also get some input from your residents to get a sense of how they feel about parking and what they would like to see. Again, you will always have some people in any association who will be to the extreme side of that scale no matter what, but as long as you have a reasonable and justified approach to parking you should be able to keep most people in the association happy!
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