Q&A: Regulating Vehicles On-Site

Q When I moved into my condo the bylaws said that vehicles are limited to standard  motor cars (no boats, no trailers, no motor homes and no commercial vehicles).  That was in 2004 and I have a pickup truck and my wife has a SUV. When we moved  in, our property was being managed by one property management company. Now  seven years later, a new property management company has taken over and they  sent us a letter stating that the vehicle restrictions are: (no trucks, pickup  trucks, vans with sliding slides, recreational vehicles (RV's), trailers,  motorcycles, or commercial vehicles of any kind), unlicensed or inoperable  vehicles are not permitted to park on the association property. My question is  can the property management make this kind of change that affects people who  had a vehicle that was okay when the condominium was bought?  

 —Aggrieved in Addison  

A “In short, “no”—the property manager cannot impose rules governing the use of a condominium's  common elements,” explains attorney Charles T. VanderVennet of the Law Offices of Charles T.  VanderVennet, P.C., in Arlington Heights. “Section 18.4(h) of the Illinois Condominium Property Act empowers the board of  managers to “adopt and amend rules and regulations covering the details of the operation and  use of the property” after following the specific procedures set forth in that section of the law.  Some of those rules might impact pre-existing circumstances.  

 “For an expanded critique of the described situation, the analysis would focus on  the exact language of the use restrictions set forth in the association's  governing documents and on how reasonable were the actions of the board of  managers when it came to the application of that language to parking  situations. Use restrictions generally are set forth in the recorded  declaration of condominium ownership, the document that established the  condominium. Sometimes, use restrictions are contained in the bylaws. The  bylaws typically are an exhibit to the declaration though they can be imbedded  within the declaration—as customarily was the practice in older condominium documents. Rules and  regulations adopted by the board often include specific provisions regulating  parking but those provisions cannot conflict with the declaration and bylaws or  applicable law.  

 “The issue in this question seems to boil down to the interpretation of the term “standard motor cars” as apparently set forth in the governing documents that were effective in 2004.  The unit owners are entitled to expect that the board will enforce the use  restrictions. If the enforcement of the existing covenants and rules becomes  impractical or problematic due to changed circumstances (such as the changes to  the styles of vehicles used by the condominium residents), the board will have  to determine how to address the situation. Perhaps the board can adopt rules to  address such situations that do not conflict with or contravene the clear  mandates of the recorded covenants. Sometimes, the declaration and/or bylaws  must be amended to establish more up-to-date language for some situations  facing the condominium. Until changed, however, the current language remains in  full force and effect.  

 “Whether in a declaration amendment or in the rules, it sometimes is appropriate  for the new language to include “grandfathering” provisions that allow current behavior to continue even though it would violate  the new provisions. Such allowances generally are limited to a reasonable  period of time so as to give the residents an opportunity to adjust to the new  requirements. Further a “hardship” procedure also may be included granting a resident the chance to apply to the  board for a discretionary “exception” to the requirement.  

 “All in all, the board may face some challenges when it comes to addressing  current circumstances within the parameters of not-so-current language in a  condominium's governing documents. The board members are charged with acting  reasonably. Periodic review of the governing documents can identify potential  problem areas. Preemptive action by the board can minimize or prevent adverse  consequences to the condo and its residents.”