Can a branded vocational vehicle be ticketed for being parked in an employee driver’s home driveway? Or, can it be subject to a fine if legally parked overnight on the side of a street? Before you say no, think again. These discriminatory practices occur regularly when vocational vehicles are parked in residential areas governed by a homeowner association (HOA). In fact, the type of restrictions that can be implemented against vocational or branded vehicles can run the gamut and are at the whim of the HOA.
If you think this doesn’t affect many employees, think again. An estimated 50 million Americans live in HOA-governed communities. Approximately 6,000-8,000 new community associations are formed every year, including condominiums, cooperatives, and planned communities.
When a company decides to brand its fleet vehicles with either corporate logos or full-vehicle advertising wraps, it may inadvertently create a situation that puts its employees in conflict with HOA restrictions on the parking of commercial vehicles in common areas. Most HOAs allow commercial vehicles as long as they are garaged with the garage door down, but not all commercial fleet vehicles can fit in a garage due to vehicle height or length. In addition, there is no national uniformity to HOA parking restrictions; they run the gamut, with each local entity having the right to determine its own restrictions governing commercial vehicles.
HOAs are formal legal entities created to maintain common areas and have the authority to enforce deed restrictions. Most condominiums, townhouse developments, and many newer single-family subdivisions are governed by HOAs, usually created when the development is built.
Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&R) are the governing documents that dictate how an HOA operates and what rules owners must obey. These documents and rules are legally enforceable by the HOA, unless a specific provision conflicts with federal, state, or local laws. When you purchase a home, you enter into a contractual agreement with the HOA to abide by its covenants, which include bylaws that empower the board to adopt and enforce rules they believe are necessary for everyone’s good.
It is fairly common and permissible among HOAs to restrict or, in more extreme cases, prohibit the parking of commercial vehicles. Restrictions governing commercial vehicles are typically found in the CC&Rs governing parking privileges. The parking policy explains the parking rules and specifies procedures for enforcing them; not only is the board allowed to develop the policy, it’s legally obligated to do so.
Often, parking in an HOA is tight. Typically, developers want to build the most homes possible to make the most money, so they often allot the minimum parking spaces required by law. Unfortunately, that leaves the association to deal with the shortage. An association’s roads are subject to local regulations that specify the space needed for access by emergency vehicles. When cars are parked on the street, sometimes there isn’t enough clearance for fire trucks to maneuver, which can result in street parking restrictions.
Many HOAs do not allow overnight parking of commercial vehicles in the common areas of their communities. Branded vehicles of local vendors or tradesmen, such as plumbers, electricians, HVAC, etc., are allowed to temporarily park within an HOA-administered community as long as they do not park overnight.
Many HOAs have rules about parking in driveways, but the rules are mostly to prohibit residents from parking their commercial vehicles out in the open, such as a contractor’s truck, which may have logos and equipment stored on it. Often, the definition of what differentiates a commercial vehicle and a private vehicle isn’t clear. Restrictions on commercial vehicles, like many other typical provisions in community associations’ governing documents, are well intentioned and meant to preserve the residential character of the community.
However, these provisions can give rise to difficult questions regarding what types of vehicles fall within the definition of a “commercial vehicle,” as many governing documents do not define the term. For instance, an HOA may prohibit a tow truck from being parked in a driveway while at the same time allow a police officer to park an assigned patrol car in a neighboring driveway. While a government vehicle or police vehicle are used for work, they are often not considered “commercial.”
Typically, the definition of a commercial vehicle is one involved in commerce, such as the buying and selling of goods and services. Some HOA board members argue that all trucks are commercial in nature, so they should not be allowed in driveways. While it is up to the HOA’s discretion to prohibit commercial vehicles, they can’t prohibit every vehicle. Most courts will agree that a passenger truck without any business logos or equipment is a private, passenger vehicle. But, HOAs have been known to ticket passenger vehicles parked overnight or in a driveway if they have decals on the rear windows advertising a part-time business, such as pet grooming, cosmetic sales, or a web service.
Legally, HOAs have the authority to control the type of vehicles allowed to park within the communities they administer. However, restricting certain kinds of commercial vehicles becomes problematic, especially if the vehicle is a resident's primary transportation. The common retort is that the individual should have read the CC&R before buying a home in an HOA-administered community.
But, what if a company decides to brand its vehicles after an individual becomes a property owner in an HOA? Sometimes, company drivers have a legal recourse in these situations. Most CC&Rs allow their provisions to be amended if a certain percentage of the property owners agree to the change, but this is usually difficult and often very time-consuming.
Let me know what you think.