Rules and regulations
Communication is key25th Feb 2021
Rules are the glue that keeps an estate from breaking down into anarchy – but they can also be the cause of some conflict, so they need to be handled with care. And one of the most important aspects of keeping the rules is ensuring that everyone knows them. Everyone!
Ignorance is no excuse
The Latin phrase Ignorantia juris non excusat, which means ‘ignorance of the law is not an excuse’, is enshrined in law, so there’s not much point fluttering your eyelashes at a magistrate and saying, ‘I didn’t know stealing was against the law.’ Where this does get a bit more grey, though, is – for example – speeding if there are no signs indicating the speed limit. But these things are all outside of the estate, and – as estate managers – we are as concerned about maintaining a harmonious community as we are about enforcing the rules. In fact, the only reason we do enforce the rules is to maintain a harmonious community. So it’s clear that the way the rules are enforced is almost as important as the fact that they are enforced. And ensuring that everyone knows the rules is an absolute prerequisite for enforcing them in an amicable way.
Upfront is not enough
Obviously, you will need to ensure that all purchasers get a copy of the rules before they move in – preferably before they commit to buying, so that they can address any dealbreakers upfront, and you won’t have to deal with questions such as: ‘What do you mean I can’t keep a pet goat?’ or ‘It’s only a 40-ton truck, what’s the big deal?’ Of course, you also need to ensure that all tenants get a copy when they move in, and ensure that you know when new tenants arrive.
But memories are short and, once the removal truck has driven off, the crockery is all unpacked and the cardboard boxes sent to recycling, those rules will be neatly filed somewhere – possibly in the ‘black hole’ file. So it’s a good idea to – perhaps annually – recirculate them to all residents, especially if there have been any changes.
Remember, new residents can move in without necessitating a deed of sale or a new lease. People get married or decide to cohabit, which means a new person in the household. And parents, adult children and/or siblings may move in for a month or two – or for ever. And, when residents go on holiday, make sure any house sitters and/or pet sitters are given a copy of the rules as part of their welcome to the estate.
On the spot
It’s essential that the rules are easily accessible on the estate’s website, but it’s also a good idea to have a copy pasted up somewhere central – perhaps the clubhouse, or the admin offices.
Even more usefully, ensure that the relevant rules are visibly posted in the places that matter – rules about the pool at the pool, rules about fishing at the dam, rules about parking in the parking area. This may sound like overkill, especially if the rules are ‘common sense’, and should be known by everyone, but you would be surprised. For example, you’d think most people could work out that it’s not reasonable to travel at 100 km/h between speed bumps and, sadly, it is still necessary to put no-smoking signs in buildings and on patios as, otherwise, addicts are pretty quick to point out that there is no sign forbidding their lighting up.
It’s not rocket surgery. The more widely known the rules are, the greater the chances of their being adhered to. And you really don’t want to get into Latin translations so, rather than pointing out that ‘ignorantia juris non excusat’, do away with the ignorance.