RealManage Insight

Pros and Cons of Parking Restrictions in Homeowners Associations

by Staff Writer on Mar 2, 2017 9:05:24 AM

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.

Pros and Cons of Parking Resitrictions in Community associations


PROS

  • 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.

The looser controls option can give some versatility towards what residents can do. Going back to my statement earlier, I have seen cars towed out of a visitor parking spot after only a few hours, and more than a few boards have told me that they want to limit visitor parking to 2 hours or less. Now, try explaining to your date that you loved having them over for dinner, but they will have to come back another night for a movie because their parking limit is about to hit. Or try throwing a party to celebrate your graduation but it can only be from noon to 2 PM. People’s homes are their largest investment, and frankly, they don’t want to always worry about if they or their friends are going to be towed or ticketed.

CONS

  • 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.
Now let’s talk about stricter controls. Say you have an association with a parking lot close to downtown, or you have extremely limited visitor parking, and people in the association are always clogging up the free parking to the point that your friend has to circle the block for 45 minutes before they can find a place to park. The latest study from the department of transportation states that the average household has 1.8 cars, and your neighbor alone might be raising the national average by a few points with the number of junkers they park in the association. Having a lot of cars is when you may need to consider some more strict policies, such as hiring a parking monitor company, passing out parking permits, and contacting a towing company to do multiple drive throughs. Again, the pros and cons:


PROS

  • 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.

CONS

  • 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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