Every now and then, you may receive an HOA violation notice. While it is the last thing you might want to see in the mail, it's not the end of the world. Knowing what happens next and what your options are can put your mind at ease.
Every now and then, you may receive an HOA violation notice. While it is the last thing you might want to see in the mail, it’s not the end of the world. Knowing what happens next and what your options are can put your mind at ease.
Homeowners associations are known for enforcing rules and covenants in communities. When a homeowner violates one of these rules, they can face certain consequences, which can include paying fines or having their privileges temporarily revoked. An HOA violation notice is simply a written notice informing an owner that they have breached a covenant or rule.
While the contents of HOA violation notices can vary from one association to another, they generally include the following:
Keep in mind that the required contents of this notice can also depend on state laws and the association’s governing documents.
Once a violation has taken place, homeowners generally have a right to three things: an HOA violation letter, a disciplinary hearing, and an appeal.
In some states, the law specifically requires homeowners associations to provide owners with an HOA violation notice in written form. They can even outline the notice period and the manner of communication that association boards must follow.
Apart from state statutes, an association’s governing documents can also detail a homeowner’s right to a violation notice. Similar to some state provisions, the bylaws or CC&Rs may also dictate how and when the HOA must send the notice.
Most of the time, violations don’t stop at receiving notices. Many associations, whether required by law or by their governing documents, also give owners an opportunity to present their arguments. Such a process is referred to as a disciplinary hearing.
One example of a state that requires disciplinary hearings is North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Planned Community Act, owners should have a chance to appear at a hearing before the HOA board or an adjudicatory panel, unless otherwise stated in the governing documents.
If the association decides to put together an adjudicatory panel for the hearing, it should not consist of any board directors or officers. Rather, it should consist of other members of the association.
Homeowners usually have a few days in between receiving the HOA violation notice and the date of the hearing. Use this time wisely and gather all documents or evidence that you can use in your defense.
If the violation has been corrected, let the board know. They might suspend the penalty in response, especially if this is your first offense. Don’t approach the board in a hostile or aggressive manner. The board likely won’t respond well to such behavior.
It is worth noting that not all states require disciplinary hearings. But, most governing documents do. To know if your HOA mandates disciplinary hearings, make sure to check your bylaws and CC&Rs.
The board must make its decision based entirely on good judgment. They must not make unreasonable or discriminatory decisions. For some HOAs, boards are also required to provide a notice of their decision within a set timeframe.
If the board imposes a fine or some other penalty, you can sometimes appeal the decision. Again, this will depend on state law or your association’s governing documents.
There are times when an HOA will fail to provide sufficient written notice. This does not automatically invalidate the violation. Typically, the association would just need to correct its error by sending you the notice according to the requirements set forth in its documents or state laws.
However, there are a few exceptions to this general rule. For instance, California law requires HOAs to provide notice of a disciplinary hearing. If the board fails to comply with the requirements found in that section, it will render the disciplinary action ineffective.
Given the possible consequences of non-compliance, HOA boards should always follow notice and hearing requirements. It would help to hire an attorney or an HOA management company to advise the board on such matters.
Normally, disciplinary hearings can clear up a lot of misunderstandings and even resolve the main problem at hand. But, sometimes, a board’s decision may only serve to anger a homeowner. Other times, it’s the other way around.
How can homeowners and HOA boards resolve disputes?
While a lot of people immediately jump to filing a lawsuit against the other party, there is a way to resolve violation disputes out of the courtroom. This alternative dispute resolution usually comes in the form of mediation or arbitration.
In fact, to limit the number of HOA lawsuits, some states, such as Florida, even require parties to go through mediation or arbitration prior to taking legal action.
With mediation, a mediator assists the parties to explain and understand every side of the story. Mediation has the goal of reaching a decision that satisfies all parties involved. Arbitration, on the other hand, sees an arbitrator reviewing all the facts of the case and making a legally binding decision. While the process differs between the two, both can resolve legal issues without having to go to court.
If alternative dispute resolution is off the table, a homeowner can sue the association. This can also work in reverse. Homeowners associations can also sue members as a way to enforce action. With this, a court can order the member to comply.
An HOA violation notice is usually the first step in the enforcement process, but not all boards issue it even if it’s required. As such, as a homeowner, you should familiarize yourself with your association’s governing documents. In doing so, you can better understand your rights as a homeowner. Similarly, HOA boards should do the same to avoid issues with compliance.
Violation tracking and management is often a source of pain for many HOA boards. An HOA management company, though, can make it infinitely easier. Start looking for the best one in your area using our online directory!
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