Selective Enforcement: A Grossly Misunderstood Concept

Without exception, the affirmative defense of “selective enforcement” is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the entire body of community association law. How often have you heard something like this: “The board has not enforced the fence height limitation, so it cannot enforce any other architectural rules”? Simply put, nothing could be further from the truth.

When a community association seeks to enforce its covenants and/or its board adopted rules and regulations, an owner can, under the right circumstances, assert an affirmative defense such as the affirmative defense of selective enforcement. An affirmative defense is a “yes I did it, but so what” type of defense. In civil lawsuits, affirmative defenses include the statute of limitations, the statute of fraudswaiver, and more. However, it’s just not as simple as that. For example, a fence height limitation is a very different restriction than a required set back. Under most if not all circumstances, the failure to enforce a  fence height requirement is very different from the failure to enforce a setback requirement. Ordinarily, the affirmative defense of selective enforcement will only apply if the violation or circumstances are comparable, such that one could reasonably rely upon the non-enforcement of a particular covenant, restriction, or rule with respect to their own conduct or action.  Read the full article