Curbing Parking Issues in Common Interest Communities

No_Parking_Sign​Insufficient parking in shared interest communities often leads to the inability to meet the parking requirements of all residents. While the adequacy of parking facilities may not have been a significant concern for community associations established in the 1970s or 1980s, given that the typical household had only one vehicle at that time, the situation drastically changed by the end of the century. As the number of families with two or more vehicles has grown, this new reality has placed added stress on management of communities. Association boards often grapple with issues such as vehicles obstructing driveways or parked on lawns, or the use of street parking. This article explores these common challenges and outlines potential solutions in more detail below.

Unauthorized Parking

One of the most common issues faced by community associations is unauthorized parking. For example, a community may find that vehicles are blocking driveways, preventing owner ingress and egress, or offensively parked on lawns, destroying common element grass and creating an eyesore for the community. Sometimes owners leave their vehicles parked in the community’s roads for an exhaustive length of time, making it difficult and unsafe for others to traverse the internal roads.

Restrictions, Rules, and Regulations

The starting point for addressing parking issues is a thorough understanding of an association’s bylaws, rules, and regulations. Of course, to prevent surprises and issues from occurring, the board should ensure that its parking and towing policies are clearly communicated to their residents. These provisions typically outline the parking policies, may include reference to assigned spaces, visitor parking prohibitions, and any restrictions on vehicle types or sizes. While the recorded restrictions may contain general parking guidelines, the board may consider adopting rules to put a finer point on what is expected of the community. For example, some documents may restrict owners from utilizing visitor parking on a permanent basis yet contain no details as to how long a vehicle could be parked. If the board has rule making authority, the board could establish an acceptable timeframe for parking, such as no more than 48 hours within a 7-day period. As with any rule, however, it’s important that it reflect the needs of the community, and that both owners and the association are familiar with its requirements.


Often, an owner in violation of a parking restriction will bring themselves into conformity with the restrictions after a simple warning letter. However, sometimes despite repeated notices, violations continue to occur. To help maintain order and ensure the equitable use of limited parking spaces, associations may consider removing the vehicle from the premises altogether, i.e. exercising their right to tow. Towing may particularly be advisable where vehicles are left blocking ingress and egress for other residents or left on lawns.

While many governing documents grant associations the general authority to tow vehicles in violation of vehicle restrictions, Michigan statute imposes specific requirements for associations to place towing notice(s) at entry points to their communities. According to MCL 257.252k, the notice must adhere to the following conditions:

• The notice or sign must be conspicuously displayed at the entrance to the parking area.
• The notice or sign must clearly state, using letters not less than 2 inches in height on a contrasting background, that “unauthorized vehicles will be towed away at the owner’s expense.”
• The notice or sign must provide the name and contact number of the towing service responsible for vehicle removal.
• The notice or sign must be permanently installed, with its bottom located no less than 4 feet from the ground.
• Towing cannot occur until the sign has been on the property for at least 24 hours.

There are a couple notable exceptions to the above-stated notice requirements:

1. The association provides the owner or person otherwise in control of the vehicle personal notice that the area where the vehicle is parked is reserved or otherwise unavailable to unauthorized vehicles and that the vehicle is subject to towing without that person’s consent; or
2. The vehicle is parked on real property appurtenant to and clearly part of a single-family residence.

To curb parking violations, associations have other enforcement options, including sending notice and levying fines, as provided in their governing documents. But, when there is no time for a violation letter, the association should consider exercising its right to tow. Given the detailed statutory provisions regarding community association towing, consulting with an attorney experienced in this area of law is advisable to ensure the process is appropriately handled in compliance with all relevant laws. By adhering to the legal requirements and ensuring parking policies are clearly communicated to the members, community associations can successfully address parking issues straining their neighborhoods.

What if the Community’s Roads are Public?

Public roads are funded and managed by the local government, and they are subject to public regulations and ordinances. If the road within your community association is public, it typically means that it is owned and maintained by a government entity, such as a city or county, and is accessible to the general public. We often hear about parking issues in public roadways, and the assumption that the association is left with little in the way of enforcement options. We always first recommend that the association contact the municipality to see if those portions of the roadway adjacent to the curb can be designated as fire lanes, which would carry with it a municipal infraction and potential towing by the municipality.

Additionally, although public roads are not under the jurisdiction of the association since they are not owned or administered by the association, there is case law that supports the proposition that the association may restrict parking in public roadways. One significant case that lends support to this proposition is the Michigan Court of Appeals case, McCabe v Horizons Unlimited, Inc., 2006 Mich App LEXIS 2672 (unpublished). In this case, the Court of Appeals ruled that the association had the power to regulate defendants’ storage of a trailer on the public road within the subdivision and that the defendants had given no support for the argument that the deed restrictions could not extend beyond the owner’s property and into the public road. The rationale behind this decision was that the contractual language of the governing documents indicated an intent for the restrictions to apply uniformly throughout the entire subdivision, and in an action grounded in contract, such as enforcement of governing documents, the intent of the drafter is controlling.

Furthermore, there are two additional opinions on this subject from other states, namely Maryland Estates Homeowners’ v. Puckett, 936 S.W.2d 218 (Mo. Ct. App. 1996) and Verna v. Links at Valleybrook Neighbor, 371 N.J. Super. 77, 852 A.2d 202 (App. Div. 2004). In both cases, the courts emphasized the significance of restrictive covenants and highlighted that property owners, by acquiring property subject to such covenants, effectively agree to abide by their terms. In other words, basic contract principles apply, and where the language of the contract is clear and unambiguous, the court must enforce it as written. Thus, in these cases, the public parking restrictions were upheld.

While these out of state cases are not necessarily binding in Michigan, they are instructive. Drawing from these referenced cases, even in situations where a community’s streets are categorized as public roadways, it is crucial to recognize that the recorded restrictions constitute a contract between the owners and the association. Consequently, in reliance upon this instructive case law, and based on contractual principles, an association may be able to successfully enforce its parking restrictions on the community’s public roads.


Parking issues in Michigan common interest communities are not uncommon, but they can be effectively managed through proactive measures, clear communication, and adherence to established rules and regulations. Overall, an educated community of residents and a well enforced system are paramount to solving parking problems before they start. By following these strategies, Michigan’s common interest communities will not tire of finding equitable and lasting solutions to their parking challenges.

Reprinted with permission from Community Associations Institute – Michigan Chapter.