Should Homeowners Be Appointed As HOA Violation Enforcers?

Is it a good idea for homeowners to become HOA violation enforcers? What are the pros and cons of this setup?

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Is it a good idea for homeowners to become HOA violation enforcers? What are the pros and cons of this setup?

 

Can Homeowners Be HOA Violation Enforcers?

Homeowners associations typically have covenants and rules that residents must follow. To ensure compliance, inevitable consequences are depending on the violation. It is usually the job of the HOA board to enforce the rules and penalize violations with the help of an HOA manager (if any). But, in some communities, especially larger ones, boards may be tempted to appoint volunteers to patrol the neighborhood for violations.

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But can homeowners even be HOA violation enforcers?

It depends on the association. An HOA’s governing documents normally outline what the board can and can’t do. And this may include whether or not it is permitted to appoint a homeowner to monitor for violations. In general, though, this setup has more disadvantages than advantages.

 

Downsides of Homeowners Doing HOA Violation Patrol

Here are the downsides of appointing a homeowner to patrol the community for violations.

 

Biased Judgment

hoa violation patrolBoard members are bound by their fiduciary duty to enforce rules consistently and uniformly. On the other hand, volunteer patrollers generally don’t have this same duty. Because volunteers typically won’t suffer any personal consequences, they are more prone to bias.

When volunteers patrol the neighborhood, they might choose which violations to report to the board. They might not report their friends’ violations because they like them. Similarly, they might make more frequent reports on neighbors they dislike.

With volunteer patrollers, there is also a chance of retaliation. If someone crosses them or disagrees with them, they might target that person as a way to get even.

 

Abuse of Power

While some may have honorable intentions, others will take this opportunity to abuse their power. A volunteer patroller might use their position to get others to do what they want. They may also accept gifts or bribes from neighbors who don’t want their violations reported to the board. Corruption and threats can exist anywhere — even in homeowners associations.

 

Sows Discord Among Residents

Because of the downsides listed above, allowing volunteers to patrol the community can pit residents against one another. It creates bad blood among residents and can even escalate to fights. Imbalance and dissonance make for very bad communities to live in.

 

Liability for the HOA

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, volunteer patrollers make the association vulnerable to liability. Volunteers don’t always know the HOA’s rules like the back of their hand, and they might end up trespassing into someone’s property and creating more problems.

If a volunteer patroller discriminates, harasses, intimidates, threatens, or attacks anyone, the association will be at risk. This is because the board allowed the volunteer to monitor the community on its behalf. But, unlike the board, these volunteers are not protected by the governing documents or standard D&O insurance. Worse yet, a volunteer might carry a weapon and hurt a resident.

 

Are There Upsides?

The only benefit of appointing homeowners as HOA violation enforcers is it helps the board with rule compliance. They act as an extra pair of eyes on the neighborhood, monitoring any breaches. This can promote consistent and uniform enforcement because the board catches all violations.

But, consistent enforcement is not a guarantee. As discussed earlier, there is also a danger of selective enforcement when volunteers act on their personal biases, judgments, and power trips.

 

How Should an HOA Monitor Violations?

It is absolutely essential for an HOA board to monitor violations in the community. This is because it keeps the community in order. Particularly in bigger communities, monitoring the neighborhood allows the board to identify all violations. In doing so, homeowners can’t use a defense of selective enforcement.

That said, it is hard for the board to catch all violations as they happen. It is also unreasonable to have board members patrol the community every day. As such, it is a good idea to employ a combination of the following strategies:

 

Establish a Complaint Process

hoa complaintsHomeowners associations should have a complaint process. Through this process, homeowners can report any complaints and violations they have straight to management. Management can then filter through the submissions and pass them on to the board for decisions.

A complaint process is good to have because homeowners tend to witness violations more than management. Management does not always catch violations because they might not be present when it happens. For instance, a loud party might take place late in the night, and management would have no way of knowing.

This process also involves everyone — not just select homeowners. Anyone can submit a complaint form to management. Of course, it is imperative to investigate each complaint thoroughly to ensure its validity.

 

Perform Walkthroughs

Board members should walk through the community with the manager to identify violations. It is a good idea to do this regularly, perhaps once a month or once every quarter. Sometimes, security can do this, too. They can go through every floor and make sure everything is okay. This applies particularly to condominiums.

 

Seek Help from a Management Company

Lastly, it is best to hire a professional manager or management company. Board members don’t always have the time to comb through the entire neighborhood. And because it is too risky to appoint homeowners as HOA violation enforcers, having a set of professional hands on the job is a good solution.

Many HOA management companies have their own covenant compliance person. With the association’s rules on hand, this person monitors the community regularly to identify violations. This setup is ideal because it places a neutral third party on the ground for monitoring instead of a biased volunteer.

 

The Best Solution

Whichever way you look at it, it is generally not recommended to appoint homeowners as HOA violation enforcers. There is too much at risk, and it is not always guaranteed that the association will come out of it scot-free. As such, if a community needs help monitoring and enforcing violations, an HOA management company is the sensible choice.

Start looking for reliable HOA management companies in your area using our online directory!

 

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