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Articles

Keeping It Civil: How a Civility Resolution Can Help Your Community

By: Jay Lazega and Taylor Mathis

Disputes between owners and board members in community associations are nothing new.  It’s likely that, at some point, your Board of Directors has experienced or will experience an uncivil encounter with an owner, whether in the community, at an Association meeting, or even on social media.  Most of these situations are isolated passing incidents, but more frequently, many are continuing practices of hostile, threating or offensive behavior.  No community association board of directors is required to tolerate this type of behavior!

In response to these increasingly common situations, many communities are creating civility resolutions to define an expectation and requirement of civility, decorum and courtesy in the community.

What is a Civility Resolution?

This question can be answered in two parts.  First, what is a resolution?

  • A resolution is a formal policy adopted by a board of directors establishing new rules, regulations or operating procedures.

  • Most community association bylaws or covenants provide boards authority to establish rules or regulations for common areas and, in some cases, individual lots or units. 

  • Resolutions are typically used for enacting specific policies, such as creating enforcement procedures and fine schedules, or creating additional restrictions for the community.

  • Resolutions should be documented in writing and are commonly drafted by attorneys.  Resolutions are formally approved by a board vote, recorded in the association’s records, and, if creating new regulations or conditions on owners, distributed to the community.

Second, what is a civility resolution?

  • A civility resolution functions the same way as any other resolution, but its purpose is to create specific rules and regulations governing personal conduct in the community.  Some common rules include:

  • An agreement to treat other people with respect, civility and courtesy;

  • A prohibition on disruptive conduct or inappropriate, offensive, hostile, threatening or intimidating behavior at association or board meetings or events, or in interactions or communications with or regarding association directors, officers, committee members, managers, staff or vendors;

  • A prohibition on inappropriate or foul language or cursing in communications to or with the association officers, directors, committee members, managers, staff or vendors; and

  • A prohibition on threatening physical or emotional harm towards any association director, officer, committee member, staff or vendor.

Of course, civility resolutions should fit the needs of individual communities and should directly address any specific or common behaviors in each particular community.

As with any community association regulation, these policies are only effective if coupled with meaningful and reasonable enforcement procedures.  Civility resolutions should define violation consequences and enforcement procedures consistent with rights and procedures specified in each community’s legal documents.

Are civility resolutions enforceable? Courts are likely to rule on these resolutions as they become more common.  While court decision often are unpredictable, it would be surprising if courts hold that being subjected to threatening or abusive conduct is part of an association representative’s job.

Being a part of a community association has its benefits and compromises.  Although we cannot always control our neighbors, a civility resolution may be a useful tool to set the tone for civility and respect in your community.