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Community Associations Institute Unveils 'Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities'

5/1/2003  -  Alexandria, VA

Community Associations Institute (CAI) is unveiling a series of 42 principles and practices designed to help association-governed communities promote harmony, enhance communication and reduce the potential for conflict.

CAI, a national membership organization headquartered in Alexandria, Va., believes Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities can foster more responsive, competent and harmonious community associations.

Up to 50 million Americans live in an estimated 250,000 condominium and homeowner associations, cooperatives and other managed communities.

"Community associations exist because they offer choices, lifestyles, amenities and efficiencies that people value, and the best of them offer a comforting sense of real community," said CAI President J. David Ramsey, the association's top elected official. "Yet, with all of their inherent advantages, community associations face complicated issues, none more common than the challenge of balancing the rights of the individual resident with those of the community as a whole. Adopting Rights and Responsibilities can help community leaders better manage this critical and delicate balance."

The document states that homeowners have the right to "honest, fair and respectful treatment" by community leaders and managers, as well as the right to "appeal ... decisions affecting non-routine financial responsibilities or property rights." Homeowner responsibilities include reading and complying with the governing documents of the community.

In addition to receiving "respectful and honest treatment from residents," community leaders have the right to expect homeowners and non-owner residents to meet their financial obligations to the community. Leadership responsibilities include exercising sound business judgment and following established management practices.

Rights and Responsibilities can be accessed at

There are many issues facing the typical homeowner-governed association -financial pressures, insurance costs and the challenge of maintaining neighborhood aesthetics, to name only a few. In addition, many community associations deal regularly with conflicts involving what a resident may want to do and what the codes allow. For example:

  • A homeowner who wants to build a large shed in his yard in violation of the community's established rules for permanent structures.
  • Residents who may want to deviate from the community's established architectural guidelines, e.g., painting shutters bright red instead of the color options set forth in the convenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs).
  • Homeowners who refuse to pay community dues, therefore placing additional financial burdens on their dues-paying neighbors.

CAI readily acknowledges that individual homeowner issues cannot be addressed by a national organization. "We cannot resolve these kinds of issues from our headquarters office in Virginia, but Rights and Responsibilities provides guidance and perspective that may help homeowners and associations avoid common traps," says CAI Chief Executive Officer Thomas M. Skiba. "Rights and Responsibilities is our attempt to help communities avoid these issues in the first place or, failing that, to address them more effectively when they do arise."

The organization is calling on the boards of condominium groups, homeowner associations and cooperatives to adopt Rights and Responsibilities—but not before the principles are addressed by the community as a whole. Says Skiba, "These principles will be more meaningful to residents and community leaders if everyone becomes a stakeholder—if there is broad community conversation and consensus before the board takes action."

CAI emphasizes that Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities can be a catalyst for communication and dialogue throughout a community—the kind of dialogue that facilitates awareness, builds consensus and promotes greater community involvement and harmony.

Founded in 1973, CAI and its 55 state, regional and local chapters represent condominium and homeowner associations, cooperatives and planned communities. Its members include individual homeowners, associations, community managers and management firms, builders and developers, accountants, attorneys, lenders and other product and service suppliers—all working together to create more livable communities.

Phone: 703-970-9235