Rules and regulations exist in an HOA community to keep everything in order and help maintain property values. But, how can HOA enforce rules effectively? Read on to find out.
How Can HOA Enforce Rules Properly
“No shirt, no shoes, no service.” “You break it, you buy it.” “Handicap parking only.” “ID required for purchasing alcohol.” These are just some of the rules we encounter and adhere to outside our homes. Breaking those rules can sometimes get you in hot water, but what about breaking the rules of where you live?
A community that is governed by a homeowners association will have a complete set of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, otherwise known as CC&Rs. Each prospective owner is given a copy of the CC&Rs as part of a condition of purchase. Associations also have operating rules in place to maintain order. Homeowners have to acknowledge they’ve read the rules with the intent to follow them.
Here’s a little secret: most prospective buyers will skim through these rules and only focus on the ones that matter most to them – like owning a pet or having a washing machine in their unit. Everything else is brushed over, that is until one of those rules is broken. Then the CC&R binder is busted out of the storage drawer. At that point, it might be too late to avoid an infraction, but it’s up to the HOA as to how far they will take enforcement.
Who Enforces the Covenants and Rules?
The HOA board members are responsible for enforcing the rules and covenants of an association. Hopefully, the HOA will treat every resident equally. There have been instances of HOAs running amok when it comes to rule enforcement. Both extremes of over enforcing and under enforcing are detrimental to residents’ quality of life. In some cases, it might be time for the non-board members to band together and clean the house.
Rule enforcement is another terrific benefit of engaging the services of a professional HOA management team. Think of them as the “bad cop” to your HOA’s “good cop.” The property management staff can issue all the warnings, collect the fines, or even take the resident to court.
Tips for Homeowners Association Rules Enforcement
Here are some tips on how can HOA enforce rules within the community:
1. Issue a Warning
It could all be an innocent mistake. The new homeowner probably had no idea they couldn’t hang Christmas lights from the balcony.
Usually, the first step for the HOA is to issue a warning. This should be in writing and make reference to the specific CC&R rule at issue. Hopefully, the resident will decry “mea culpa” and undo the mistake.
In most cases, a warning is enough to keep homeowners on their best behavior. After all, a majority of residents don’t want to commit any violations. At the end of the day, being called out for a mistake is sufficiently humiliating. However, there are some residents who refuse to obey the rules and commit a second offense. For these violators, refer to the next tip.
2. Levy Fines
Consequences come with the territory of HOA rules enforcement. If a homeowner breaks a rule, they can face a monetary penalty. Most people get discouraged when money is involved, so fines work really well to deter violators. However, the HOA must see to it that the amount they impose is within a reasonable bracket. A $100 fine seems too exaggerated for a small offense like failing to take down Halloween decorations on time. On the other hand, a fine too cheap might not make a significant difference.
Imposing fines is the most common recourse for enforcing HOA rules and regulations. It’s also the most problematic. A person who feels they have the right to break the rule won’t necessarily feel obligated to pay a fine. When that happens, more fines come their way which involves the HOA lawyers. In addition to the fines, the rule breaker could also end up paying legal fees. The longer the fines go unpaid, the more penalties get racked up.
3. Suspend Rights and Privileges
Another course of action the HOA could take is to suspend the violator’s rights and privileges. Living in an HOA means residents get access to a variety of services and amenities like pools and clubhouses.
Homeowners also have the right to participate in votes. Revoking these privileges usually helps knock some sense into violators. Just make sure your association is acting within its authority — check your state laws and governing documents to avoid running into legal trouble.
4. Place a Lien
If an HOA is forced to institute a lien, the situation is serious. This step is usually a precursor to a court battle. A lien isn’t a guarantee of payment but has the power of intent behind it. If for some reason the owner is going to pull up stakes and sell, part of the proceeds could pay back what is owed to the HOA as part of the lien settlement. This might scare off a new buyer.
5. Adopt a Standard Procedure
Enforcing rules isn’t an easy task, though the process can be made simpler and more streamlined by adopting a standard procedure. Your governing documents (CC&Rs and bylaws) should contain specific details on how to deal with violations.
If you don’t have such procedures in place yet, it’s time to assume one. Check with your association’s attorney before putting your plan into action, though. This way, you can make sure you’re legally covered, too.
6. Say No to Selective Enforcement
Above all, the most important tip is to ensure uniform enforcement throughout the community. Bias and favoritism are your worst enemies here. As a member of the HOA board, you have a duty to enforce rules consistently and fairly. Don’t just pick out which rules are worth enforcing and which ones aren’t. It’s also a bad idea to give your neighbor a pass just because you owe them a favor or happen to be friends with them. That’s a recipe for legal disaster.
Why HOA Rules Enforcement Is Necessary
A homeowners association not enforcing rules is like a country not enforcing the law. Chaos would reign and the association would descend into anarchy. Rule enforcement can be tricky, though, especially without the proper procedures and preparations. So, follow these tips on how HOAs can enforce rules and regulations, and you’ll be good to go.
- The Ins And Outs Of Covenant Enforcement For Your HOA
- How To Resolve Homeowner Association Disputes Fairly
- HOA Attorneys – Why They Are Important and How To Find One