Maryland condominium and homeowners association covenants often prohibit parking “commercial vehicles” without specifying what constitutes a commercial vehicle.
Where a word or phrase used in the declaration of covenants for a condominium or homeowners association is not defined in the covenants or by statute, the board of directors has broad discretion to adopt rules which explain how the provisions of the covenants will be applied.
If there are no community rules which define what constitutes a “commercial vehicle”, it is likely that a court would apply the Maryland statutory definition of “commercial motor vehicle” used in connection with the requirements for obtaining a commercial driver’s license. Under that definition, a commercial vehicle includes any vehicle with a gross weight rating of at least 26,001 pounds; a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers; or any size vehicle used to transport hazardous materials. Excluded from the statutory definition are fire and rescue vehicles with audible and visual signals.
However, condo and homeowners association rules can establish a more restrictive or less restrictive standard as to what “commercial vehicles” are prohibited. An expansive reading of the “commercial vehicle” restriction would bar any vehicle used primarily in connection with a business or other non-residential purpose regardless of the size or appearance of the vehicle. A narrower interpretation could be adopted by describing specific features of vehicles which are not allowed.
In communities where parking is limited, the main concern is with the size of the vehicle rather than the appearance. Commercial vehicles of a certain width or length which do not fit in a parking space could be prohibited while smaller vehicles are be allowed. Other communities are mostly concerned with the size and placement of commercial signage and the display of additional tools and equipment on the vehicle. Rules can address these factors in describing what constitutes a “commercial vehicle”. If police and rescue vehicles are to be allowed, the rules could exempt these vehicles from the “commercial vehicle” definition.
As with all community rules, it is important to adopt a clear, objective standard so all residents know exactly what vehicles are prohibited. And, to avoid resident claims of selective enforcement or fair housing discrimination, whatever rules the board adopts to describe a “commercial vehicle” should be enforced uniformly and consistently.
If the goal is to allow all commercial vehicles regardless of size and appearance, the covenants should be amended to eliminate the ban on commercial vehicles.
Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives in Maryland -– including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, Frederick County, and Baltimore County; and in Baltimore City and Washington, D.C.