More often than not, governing documents contain restrictions on commercial vehicles, but the term “commercial vehicle” means something different to different people.  Although it is clear that some vehicles are undeniably “commercial” in nature, many vehicles fall somewhere in the gray area.   So how do owners know whether their vehicles will be considered “commercial” and therefore prohibited?

If the declaration restricts commercial vehicles but gives no further explanation or definition of such term, the board needs to draft a rule or resolution defining what constitutes a “commercial vehicle.”  Definitions for commercial vehicles may be developed from a variety of sources.  For example, some associations have turned to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as a basis for defining commercial vehicles.  Other associations try to find definitions in dictionaries and other reference materials.  While other associations look online to find sample definitions adopted by other communities.  Regardless of which method you choose to utilize, make sure your definition is as clear and concise as you can make it.

One important purpose of rules and resolutions is to provide owners with notice of what is prohibited and/or restricted; by doing this, associations are more likely to obtain voluntary compliance. If an owner does not know what constitutes a “commercial” vehicle, such owner will use his/her own definition of the term to determine if his/her vehicle is commercial.  However, the owner’s interpretation of the term may not be consistent with the board’s definition, which will ultimately result in a lack of voluntary compliance.

Having a clear and concise definition of commercial vehicles will also benefit associations should they need to enforce their restrictions in court. When restrictions or rules are drafted in a vague and unclear manner, a court must interpret the rules using its own definition of the terms used, which may not coincide with the meaning the board intended to impart.  On the other hand, if a restriction is drafted clearly and not open to interpretation, a court will not have the option of misinterpreting the true meaning.

Be detailed when drafting your definition of a commercial vehicle.  If you want to prohibit signage, what type of signage? Magnetic signs? Painted signs? Lettering of any kind?  Also, consider ladders on vehicles or other items typically included on commercial vehicles. The vehicle itself may be an ordinary pick-up truck, but if it has a tool box in the back and ladders on the top or sides, it may fall under the “commercial vehicle” definition.

Additionally, remember that Colorado law precludes associations from prohibiting the parking of emergency service provider vehicles under certain circumstances. Colorado law also prohibits associations from enforcing any parking, or other restrictions, in public rights of way.  So, if you have public streets running through your community, you cannot prohibit commercial, or other, vehicles from parking in the public streets.

On a final note, make sure to consult the association’s attorney prior to formally adopting your rules/policies to ensure there is no violation of the law or conflict with the declaration, articles of incorporation, or bylaws.

For more information concerning commercial vehicles, please contact an Altitude attorney at 303.432.9999 or at [email protected].

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