Running an HOA community is no walk in the park. As a member serving on your HOA board, homeowners association problems just come with the territory. But, that doesn’t mean you should leave these problems to fester.
In this article:
How to Solve the Most Common Homeowners Association Problems
Most HOA boards consist of volunteers from the community. Hence, it’s likely that not all board members will have the same level of expertise or background necessary to manage the association. Moreover, boards are usually made up of members with differing values and varying approaches to management. But, that doesn’t give boards an excuse to simply allow problems to arise and worsen.
Here are the most common homeowners association problems and how you can address them:
1. Legislative Changes
There are many federal, state, and local laws that can affect how you run a community association. And these laws can change from time to time, requiring your HOA to adapt all over again.
Fortunately, keeping up with changes in legislation isn’t all too difficult when you have a background in law. But, unfortunately, not all boards are lucky enough to have a member with legal experience. As a solution, it’s a good idea to seek the help of an HOA attorney. This will allow your board to remain in the loop on homeowners association laws and avoid breaches.
2. Financial Problems
Every homeowners association goes through some form of financial trouble or another. Many boards struggle with preparing the budget and setting dues.
Others, though, find the execution difficult — staying on budget and collecting dues. Considering how important finances are to an HOA, you can’t afford to let even a single aspect slack.
There is always a way to prevent or solve financial issues. If you suffer from a high delinquency rate, for instance, you might benefit from hiring a collection agency or setting up payment plans. A high delinquency rate can also signal to you that a lot of members are struggling financially. In that case, you might consider cutting down on non-essential expenses and adjusting the budget.
As for budget preparation, it always helps to review past financial reports and itemize your expenses. This way, you can specify anticipated costs in detail and have an actual basis for your projected amounts. It also helps to talk to your contractors and vendors about any expected increases in fees.
Above all, your HOA board should practice communication and transparency when it comes to financial matters. Members have a right to know how the association is using their dues. Plus, exercising transparency forges trust between the board and the residents.
3. Inadequate Maintenance
Homeowners associations exist to maintain the community. And, as a board member, it’s part of your job to ensure all common areas receive proper care and maintenance.
Inadequate maintenance can lead to all sorts of issues such as pests, mold, algae, and overgrown vegetation. These things can not only cause harm but also negatively affect the curb appeal of your community which, in turn, brings down property values.
A good way to ensure proper maintenance is to construct and follow a schedule. It’s also best to hire professional help in the form of landscapers, exterminators, and maintenance companies. Don’t forget to factor in maintenance expenses, broken down specifically per line item, when planning your budget.
4. Exceeding Board Authority
The HOA board is not some all-powerful body with unlimited authority. State statutes and governing documents give the board its powers, and these powers are never boundless. Sometimes, though, a rogue board member can let their position get to their head, resulting in abuse of power. In this case, it’s your duty as a fellow member of your board to keep that person in check.
There are some unlucky HOAs that suffer because of an entirely corrupt, negligent, or apathetic board. For such a problem, homeowners should not sit back in silence. Owners should voice their complaints and urge the board to act in a dutiful manner. If this fails, there is always the option of taking legal action.
5. Inconsistent or Biased Enforcement
Homeowners associations have rules that maintain order in the community. The board is responsible for enforcing these HOA rules in a consistent and fair manner. Selective enforcement, though, happens a lot and is one of the most common HOA problems there are.
The board may not enforce rules in a uniform manner, changing the specifics and procedures from one situation to another. Board members can fall victim to their own prejudices, whether it’s intentional or otherwise. They may not penalize some of their neighbors simply because they’re friends. There may even be times when board members would bend the rules to suit their own interests.
As a board member, the best way you can ensure consistent and fair enforcement is to strictly follow your governing documents. Don’t play favorites or enforce only the rules you feel like enforcing. And never think for one moment that you’re immune to the rules yourself just because you’re on the board. If there’s any conflict of interest, be mindful enough to recuse yourself.
6. Unjustified Fines
It’s normal to impose fines when members violate a rule or covenant. But, there are some cases wherein fines are unjustified.
For instance, if state statutes or your governing documents don’t allow you to charge fines, then you shouldn’t do it. You also can’t charge fines simply because it suits your fancy.
As a board member, it’s your responsibility to adhere to your bylaws and CC&Rs. Don’t impose any penalties when you have no right to do so. Remember that going against your documents can result in complaints from homeowners. Worse yet, some owners may even file a lawsuit against the association or the board itself.
7. Poor Communication
Many communities suffer from poor or a lack of communication altogether. This mainly stems from the fact that most board members have personal and professional lives outside of the HOA to tend to. As such, they can’t always stay on top of association matters and communicate with residents regularly.
But, effective communication doesn’t mean you should talk to residents 24/7. It simply means keeping them informed of any updates or changes to the HOA’s rules, finances, and other matters. It also helps to solicit feedback from members of the community to see what you can improve upon. Perhaps there’s a pervading issue you don’t know about or a policy everyone disagrees with.
Communication also means sending the proper notices and reports at the right time. Send meeting notices and agendas according to requirements and make minutes and financial reports available to members for inspection.
Use the different (and approved) communication channels you have at your disposal. This will help foster a sense of belonging among residents. After all, no one likes being kept out of the loop.
8. Poor Handling of Complaints
When residents come to you with a complaint, you may feel tempted to simply shrug them off. With so many duties to fulfill, the last thing you’d want is to hear someone whine, but you should think of this from the member’s perspective.
They feel passionately enough about an issue to bring it to your attention. The least you should do is listen to them. Who knows? The issue may turn out to be urgent and shared by a lot of people.
Of course, it’s hard to make yourself available all the time. As a compromise, use communication tools such as email or websites to collect complaints. Granted, some residents do complain about trivial things, but that doesn’t mean you should make them feel bad about it.
9. Lack of Member Involvement
A lot of associations find it challenging to increase member participation. While some people simply have no interest in community matters, others are just too shy and unsure. Sometimes, people need a little nudge in the right direction.
If you want to encourage resident involvement, social events are a good place to start. Plan simple gatherings or events built around holidays to get members mingling. Even the offer of free food and drinks can be enough to entice people to attend meetings. You can also motivate members to join committees as a more active way to get involved.
10. Pet Problems
It’s not unheard of for associations to enforce pet restrictions. After all, pets can be a nuisance in more ways than one.
As a response, HOAs may restrict the size, breed, and number of pets you can have, among other things. Some communities even go as far as to prohibit them altogether. This is one of the most common homeowners problems, though, as many consider their pets as part of the family.
For some associations, a no-pets policy is simply not an option. California law, for instance, protects the right of members to keep at least one pet. Many states, though, allow you to place restrictions concerning the size, breed, and number of pets. Additionally, associations can require owners to keep their pets on leashes when in public and clean up pet waste.
11. Parking Issues
Homeowners associations have to deal with a myriad of parking problems as well. From people abandoning their cars in common area parking lots to residents parking bulky or unattractive vehicles out in the open — these parking issues can all contribute to lower curb appeal and property values.
Many associations already have parking rules in place to control such problems. For instance, residents may not park their vehicles in common area lots for more than a set number of hours or park unsightly vehicles (RVs, trailers, commercial vehicles, etc.) in their driveways.
12. Violation of Rights
This is another one of the homeowners association problems you must watch out for. Homeowners have rights, and some of your homeowners association rules may violate those rights.
For instance, you can’t have a rule prohibiting members from installing satellite dishes on their roofs. This is according to the federal OTARD rule. Additionally, some states protect residents’ right to dry, which means you can’t legally restrict them from hanging their clothes outside on a line.
The best way you can avoid violating homeowners rights against HOA is to familiarize yourself with them. Again, just like ever-changing laws, it’s a good idea to seek counsel from an attorney.
13. Technological Changes
Far too many associations rely on outdated modes of communication to disseminate information across hundreds, even thousands, of members. The solution, though, is already right in front of you: technology. Associations shouldn’t be afraid to use technology to their advantage. One form of this is an HOA website.
Websites make it easy for residents to view information and stay up-to-date on events. It’s also a way for your HOA to advertise itself to potential homeowners. In fact, you can address a handful of homeowner association problems — such as poor communication, member involvement, and poor handling of complaints — using a website.
The Role of HOA Management Companies
When faced with a problem, homeowners should take it up with their board first before resorting to legal action.
Boards, on the other hand, should always uphold their duties and responsibilities with care and due diligence. This way, you can avoid running into homeowners association problems.
Of course, this is easier said than done, which is why plenty of communities have turned to HOA management companies for help. With professional assistance, you can easily address these homeowners association problems and obtain advice on hundreds more. Start looking for an HOA management company in your area today using our online directory.
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