Can your homeowners association issue an HOA traffic ticket? The answer may not be so simple. Still, it is worth diving into the subject to provide both HOAs and their members some insight.
In this article:
HOA Traffic Ticket: Many Sides to the Debate
People seem to be in such a hurry nowadays, but at what cost to those around you? We repeatedly see unfortunate accidents on the news. But, many of us also fail to change our driving habits. Too many drivers think that a traffic accident will not happen to them or a loved one. Some may even have the mistaken notion that an HOA community has less need for stringent traffic rules.
However, reality can’t be more different. Speeding, as well as other HOA traffic violations, is a frequent issue throughout many communities. Thus, many communities will put speed limit signs. This is an attempt to quell this, and for a while it may, to a certain extent, curb violations. On the other hand, there are still those that will continue to violate traffic norms in an HOA. Thus, it makes little difference to them whether speed limit signs are posted or not.
Can HOA Enforce Speed Limits?
Many associations take it upon themselves to set speed limits within the community. But, a lot of homeowners wonder whether their HOA even has the power to do so. Generally, HOAs can set speed limits on private roads, even if the limit is lower than the county limits.
As for HOA speed limit enforcement, associations have a few options. They can choose to levy a fine against the offending party or even take them to court. It depends on what resources are available and permitted by the HOA’s governing documents. Typically, though, an association must provide the accused with an opportunity to explain themselves in front of the board or committee.
Can an HOA Fine You for Speeding?
Some homeowners think that because they live in a gated community with private roads, they have the freedom to go as fast as they want to.
Speeding, though, is a real problem even in private developments and can cause accidents, harm, or damages. For this reason, many HOA boards seek ways to discourage speeding inside the community. One way to do so is to impose a fine.
Can a homeowners association fine you for speeding? Simply put, associations generally have the authority to fine homeowners for speeding on private roads. Of course, the HOA must see to it that the speed limit is known to all members of the community. This is where posting speed limit signs help.
Additionally, the speed limit must be realistic. It can be below the county limits but not to the point of absurdity. For instance, setting a speed limit of 5 miles per hour is simply unreasonable. Besides, too slow a limit can also cause traffic accidents.
What Do Your Governing Documents Say?
What can the community do to stop this?
Well, like many of the questions discussed in these blogs, it will come down to a couple of factors primarily dealing with your governing documents (assuming your community streets are private, if they are public then you will want to stay on top of the local authorities regarding whichever issue it may be).
Very few associations will have anything in them regarding traffic violations in any specificity.
Certainly, not too many HOAs will have provisions for issuing an HOA speeding fine, let alone citing drivers with speeding tickets in HOA properties.
However, this is where the nuisance clause (common in most associations governing documents) comes in as the catch-all term. If people are speeding throughout the community and rolling through stop signs, this poses a threat to the people in the community. This could certainly be considered a nuisance to anyone on the outside looking in.
The association can then go through its normal violation policy with the residents. Many of these policies can eventually lead to fines. This wouldn’t be a “ticket” in the police sense, but the financial consequences may be enough to sway the homeowners into slowing down.
Poris Versus Lake Holiday Property Owners Association
One unfortunate homeowner set a precedent when it comes to associations issuing an HOA traffic ticket. Long story short, Mr. Kenneth Poris was detained by private security officers. This was in 2008 when Lake Holiday in LaSalle County, Illinois had set a speed limit of 25 miles per hour.
Mr. Poris was allegedly clocked going way over that – 34 miles per hour, and he was pulled over. After debate, the association offices ended up issuing the resident a speeding citation.
Should the association’s privately hired officers be able to exercise police powers? At the end of the trial, the court decided in favor of the association. The reasoning behind it is based on what they consider to be a reasonable exercise of the HOA’s rules. Thus, since Mr. Poris agreed to follow those rules, and the court found them reasonable in this context, the citation stands.
Divided Opinion Between HOA Experts
On one hand, you have HOA experts who are concerned with the role that private security officers play in this. Can security guards give speeding tickets?
Generally speaking, private security guards or officers lack the authority to issue citations or tickets. Plus, there are many questions that arise when it comes to private security officers doing this kind of work.
To issue a ticket to speeding vehicles in HOA communities, the driver needs to be pulled over. In most cases, this is simply a matter of signaling to the driver, and the driver then cooperating accordingly.
However, in some cases, a private security officer may not have the right training to apprehend a moving vehicle. Is it appropriate to expect security vendors to do that kind of work on behalf of the HOA? Will they be covered with the proper regulations when it comes to detaining drivers? That’s the sort of issue that can also lead to a possible violation of the driver’s rights.
Not only that, but the HOA also opens itself to possible lawsuits for unlawful arrest. Plus, there’s also the question of evidence and documentation. How should an HOA’s security officers prove that the driver was speeding?
The Need for HOAs to Police Their Community
However, other experts can see how getting an HOA traffic ticket makes sense. In the case of the Poris decision, the court did base its decision on a policy of non-interference.
That is, the court will generally refrain from meddling in the internal actions of associations.
So, if a member enters a private agreement with the HOA board, and it comes to the point that traffic citations are issued, the Illinois court will, in general, “not interfere with the internal affairs of a voluntary association absent mistake, fraud, collusion or arbitrariness.”
Alternatives to Issuing an HOA Traffic Ticket
Ultimately, both HOA managers and HOA members are concerned with where the line gets drawn. Does it stop at traffic fines, or will it escalate to apprehension and detainment? Will the issue of searches come up in this debate? In any case, an HOA will need to be careful not to overstep their boundaries with the law enforcement agencies in their area.
Fortunately, there are still other ways to keep traffic violations to a minimum. Plus, they don’t have to involve issuing an HOA speeding ticket as well. Before resorting to using police powers, HOAs can try a few ideas to make their neighborhood safer.
1. Post Speed Limit Signs
The reasoning is simple here — if homeowners don’t know what the speed limit is, then they are more likely to violate it. This will inevitably lead to more traffic accidents.
Post signs wherever you can as a gentle reminder to the drivers in your neighborhood. In addition to speed limit signs, worded signs like “Children at Play” can help discourage drivers from speeding because they know what is at risk.
While posting signs is definitely not a blanket solution to speeding, it is one way of preventing it. Additionally, the community’s members may know what the speed limit is, but guests probably do not.
2. Install Speed Bumps
Speed bumps, cushions, and humps also help prevent speeding and, by association, traffic accidents. Don’t just install them in arbitrary locations, though. It is worth getting the help of a civil engineer to identify which calming devices should go in which area.
Moreover, certain building codes and ordinances might prevent you from installing just any device you want. Therefore, you should consult with your local municipal department first.
3. Install a Neighborhood Speed Camera
While not exactly the cheapest option, an HOA speed camera can deter speeding and is a helpful tool for traffic enforcement. Such cameras or speed detection devices can be installed in strategic locations to capture license plates, record speeds, and report any violations. Once you obtain these reports, you can then proceed with sending a warning notice to or imposing a fine against the offending party.
4. Outsource HOA Traffic Enforcement
There are several companies that offer private traffic enforcement services to planned and gated communities. These companies help the association recognize and record speeding cars.
While private security firms can’t issue tickets, they can monitor roadways and report violators to the board. Of course, such services come with a fee. But, associations can easily make up for the amount using the fines levied against speeding drivers.
5. Partner with Local Authorities
Local law enforcement has jurisdiction over public roads, but they can also help HOAs with private roads. Ask them to perform surprise periodic patrols within your community. They can then issue speeding tickets to violators they catch. In doing so, you can encourage speed limit adherence in your association.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Although the Poris case set a precedent for issuing an HOA traffic ticket, associations must focus on prevention rather than punishment. Things like speed bumps, signs, and speed indicators can go a long way towards guiding drivers towards a safer commute home. It also helps to remind HOA members that road safety is a community responsibility and that they have an important role in it as well.