Can Homeowners Association Keep Drones Grounded?

Drones and common interest communities (CICs) aren’t often discussed together.  But can residents of CICs keep their neighbors from flying drones over their homes and (whether intentional or not) observe activity that residents deem private?

Drones, the common name for unmanned aerial vehicles,  often have cameras mounted on them which can take still photos or video.  Residents may have no idea that a drone overhead is documenting their activities in their exclusive space, such as their back yards.

Drone Regulation is Up In the Air

Residents’ use of drones in CICs, like other resident activities, may be something a Board of Directors of a homeowners association prefers to restrict or prohibit.  If so, the Board should first determine if it has the authority to establish the restriction or prohibition.  Such authority might come from the governing documents of the CIC or from certain relevant MN laws governing CICs and homeowners associations.

Restrictions on drone use might be appropriate in the rules and regulations for the homeowners association, or in an amendment to the declaration for the CIC (circumstances could vary depending upon the current governing documents).  Bear in mind, however, that drones might be a beneficial and efficient tool to be used by Associations and property managers to survey the grounds of the CIC to determine if residents are complying with parking restrictions, architectural control mandates, or other Association policies governing the exterior of homes and the common areas.

Bottom Line

Drone use is just one of the newer areas of concern for homeowners association.  One other newer area of concern is the use of units for short-term rental use through websites such as Airbnb or VRBO®.

Because of the scope and pace of technology changes, new issues seem to arise almost without warning.  Therefore, we strongly recommend that homeowners associations regularly review their existing governing documents to determine if they should amend those documents to address current issues and perhaps avert future problems before they occur.

Fred Krietzman is an attorney and shareholder at Felhaber Larson in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He specializes in homeowners association law. He can reached at 612-373-8418 or fkrietzman@felhaber.com.

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