Drones, Pot, and Electric Cars - Oh My!

If the past is any predictor of the future, we need all hands on deck. This past year, 2014, highlighted a set of property management challenges that promise to persist throughout this new year, 2015. This is especially true for those who manage properties within a Home Owner's Association. Here are three particularly interesting issues that will increasingly require our attention: Drones, Legalized Marijuana, and Electric Vehicles usage.

Some Initial Suggestions

  • Discuss - has your team begun to discuss these and other changes to property management? Have you considered how the legalization of marijuana, the use of drones, and the proliferation of electric vehicles will impact the properties and/or communities you manage?
  • Research - before making a knee-jerk rule that mindless says, 'over my dead body..', which will more than likely require an embarrassing retraction later, it would be much wiser to first obtain all the available facts, be consistently open to new information, and to establish rules that are reasonable to our ever changing culture. Don't ignore these and other changes. Don't wait until 'after the fact'. Yet, don't over-react and set yourself up for more trouble than is necessary.
  • Law - what options can you legally take according to your current HOA Bylaws - that were most likely written long before any of these changes were even imagined? What federal and state laws exist or are currently being considered, that trump your HOA Bylaws? What rights do owners and tenants have for utilizing drones, legalized marijuana, and electric vehicles despite your concerns? Which long established rules do you have that already conflict with new laws within your state regarding these three issues and thus need to be amended or even discarded?
  • Reality - do you already have residents using marijuana for medical/recreational purpose as legally permitted by your state? Do your already have residents flying drones around your community? Are there power cords already stretched from a housing unit across a common sidewalk to charge a resident's electric vehicle? In other words, have your already waited too long to establish appropriate new rules? Are you now in a position where you must say 'no' to what has been happening for some time, rather than having wisely planned ahead with reasonable guidelines?

For Starters

Drones

More than likely various businesses, like Amazon, will soon be delivering packages via drones into the neighborhood that you manage. Additionally, many folks who own property that your manage probably received a drone as a 2014 Christmas gift and many other residents will be purchasing their own personal drone in the months to come. Hopefully your first realization of this issue won't be a drone flying past your head.

Should, or even can, your HOA prohibit drone deliveries? If drone deliveries are permitted, what are the new liabilities associated with this practice? If your HOA decides it can and thus will permit drone deliveries, is it possible to establish a safe, common area for all deliveries, or is it feasible for deliveries to be made to each home within your community?

What might be some reasonable new rules for the personal use of drones within your HOA? Can they be used over common areas and/or over another member's home? Will there be a no-fly zone(s), times or even days in which drones are not permitted to be used? Should there be a limit on the size of permitted drones? Drones are defined as 'unmanned aircraft'. Does your HOA prohibit radio controlled model helicopters as well? Are your rules consistent?

Legalized Marijuana

The trend within the United States is toward the legalization of marijuana either for medical use or for recreational use or both. How does your property management company already deal with this new issue? Can an HOA prohibit what the state may have legalized? Can marijuana use be restricted in the same way that cigarette use is restricted - no smoking in common areas, no smoking in and around the pool, etc?

If the recreational and/or medical use of marijuana is legal in your state and it's use is not a nuisance to other community members, can an HOA still create rules that prohibit it's use? If a tenant dislikes the smell marijuana coming from a neighbor's house, is that considered a sufficient 'nuisance' that an HOA can legally act? What if a tenant doesn't like the smell of a neighbor's BBQ or a neighbors Eucalyptus tree? Again, are your rules consistent?

Electric Vehicles

Must a Home Owner's Association provide an electric vehicle changing station? If no, will the HOA prohibit a resident from having their own charging station installed? Note, some states are enacting laws that prohibit restrictions against the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. How is your state handling this issue?

Has your HOA established guidelines for members who may own and need to charge an electric vehicle? Will a private charging station be considered a modification of the exterior of a building that must first be approved by the HOA? If, on the other hand, the association provides a charging station, who pays for the electricity? How will a charging station be regulated so that non-members of the association cannot freely charge their vehicles?  What are the liabilities associated with providing a charging station for members? If a member is permitted to charge their electric vehicle at their residence, will there be safety, liability, and/or legal issues associated with electric cords extended across sidewalks to the vehicle parking space?

Summary

We have not exhausted all the pro's and con's associated with these three particular, new challenges to property managers and HOA's, but have merely attempted to at least encourage their discussion. These and many other changes are going to impact the way we manage properties in the future. Be wise. Be prepared. Be knowledgeable.