Associations can impose penalties on members for driving violations of members and their guests and tenants. Associations have the authority to make and enforce rules for common area use provided the rules are reasonable. Adopting a speed limit of 5 mph for streets would likely be unenforceable as unreasonable but might be suitable for alleyways.
Due Process. If the association receives information about speeding or other violations, it should investigate and determine whether a violation occurred. Before the association can impose penalties, the accused is entitled to due process, which means notice and a hearing where the owner can offer his/her version of the events. Since homeowners are entitled to challenge information about the violation, the board cannot rely on anonymous reports.
Fines and Suspensions. The penalties imposed on those who violate the association's vehicle rules include fines and the temporary suspension of driving privileges. Just as the state can suspend driving privileges on public streets and highways, associations can suspend driving privileges on its private streets. Associations cannot suspend ingress and egress rights, i.e., the association cannot block a member from getting to their property. However, the association can regulate how they get to their property. In other words, the member can walk, ride a bicycle or take a taxi to get to their property but cannot drive a car on the association's streets during the time of the suspension.
Flashing Lights & Tickets. Although California has not yet addressed whether homeowner associations can ticket persons for speeding on their streets, Illinois has.The Supreme Court of Illinois ruled that associations can (i) stop drivers and issue tickets for violating the association's traffic rules, (ii) use amber flashing lights on security vehicles, and (iii) not be liable for false imprisonment when pulling over vehicles on their private streets, provided they have a strong and honest suspicion the person violated the association's rules.
Only Logical. The Illinois court wrote “We can discern no logic in allowing a private homeowners association to construct and maintain private roadways, but not allowing the association to implement and enforce traffic laws on those roadways.” I believe that California courts would (and should) reach a similar decision.
Recommendation: Based on the court's discussion and reasoning, associations should:
- Not attempt to enforce the Vehicle Code. Instead, associations should adopt and enforce their own traffic rules. So as to avoid the impression that the Vehicle Code is being enforced, security personnel should issue a "Rules Violation Notice" instead of a "Speeding Ticket."
- Ensure that if their security officers ticket a member's guest, the member is responsible for the fine not the guest.
- Ensure that if a security officer stops a person who is neither a member nor invitee of a member, a warning is given not a ticket.
To read the decision see Poris v. Lake Holiday POA.
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