As a homeowner association (HOA) manager, it’s your responsibility to help the HOA enforce its rules. In many ways, you’re the “eyes and ears” of the association’s board members. When you’re on-site managing the association, you’ll likely be among the first to spot rule violations. Residents will also come to you with noise complaints, neighborly disputes, and other problems that arise from violations of the HOA’s rules.
So how can you help enforce the HOA’s rules? What’s the best strategy for enforcing rules while still maintaining a positive relationship with residents? As an association manager, it’s important to strike a balance with rules so that your clients’ residents see you as an approachable problem-solver instead of a strict, heartless enforcer.
You also need to know what steps to take when action is required. Many HOA rule violations can be resolved with a warning or a small citation. In extreme cases, you may need to help the association take legal action or even call local law enforcement on your clients’ behalf. Here are some basic yet very important guidelines to help you enforce HOA rules.
Understand the HOA Rules
First, make sure you understand each of your clients’ rules and regulations. Read all of the HOA’s governing documents, including the association bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), and rules for common use areas. If you’re uncertain about a specific rule or regulation, ask your client for clarification. It can be very helpful to use management software that includes word search capabilities, making it easier to locate specific rules within the documents.
It’s difficult to enforce HOA/COA rules that you don’t personally understand. When you know each rule, and the reason for it, you’ll be able to enforce the community’s guidelines with fairness and integrity. If a resident gets upset because they don’t know why they’ve been issued a warning or fine, you’ll be able to explain why the rule exists and how it benefits everyone in the community.
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Post HOA Rules Online
Next, make sure the HOA rules are clearly posted for all residents to see. Although all homeowners are given copies of the association’s rules when they first buy their property, there are many scenarios where the resident may still be in the dark. For example, the homeowner may have a child, relative, or roommate who simply never read the rules. From time to time, there may also be guests visiting who aren’t aware of the association’s guidelines.
Although you can’t force everyone who enters the community to sit down and read the HOA’s governing documents, you can do the next best thing by making the rules easily available. Using management software like CINC Systems, you can create a web portal for residents where all rules and regulations are available online, 24/7. This is also a convenient way to issue updates.
The best way to help enforce your clients’ HOA rules is to educate residents so they don’t break them. Still, life happens. Whether by accident or intention, sooner or later there will be rule violations within the association community. When this occurs, it’s time to take action.
Give a Warning
Often, HOA rule violations occur as the result of an innocent mistake. Maybe the resident forgot a rule or misunderstood it. In other cases, the violation can occur without the resident’s knowledge. For example, they may not realize their dog barks incessantly when they’re not home and violates the community’s noise restrictions.
When you enforce rules, especially for first-time violators, start by issuing a warning. Use your judgment. Sometimes a verbal warning is enough. Otherwise, you may need to issue a written warning. Written warnings are also a good way to document incidents or disputes between residents, in case the issue escalates. Be aware of local rules or regulations regarding the methods of transmitting warning letters. Some communities allow for electronic transmission while others do not. Don’t get caught sending a warning letter by email in a community with a rule that states all warnings need to be sent via USPS.
When a warning doesn’t work, you can begin to use your power as an association manager to sanction residents. One option is to revoke certain privileges, such as access to common areas.
This is a great way to enforce rules that relate to specific spaces in the community. For example, let’s say a resident continually violates a rule that prohibits drinking alcohol in the community pool. If the resident persists after multiple warnings, you can temporarily ban them from the pool. This temporary ban can expand to a permanent ban if the prohibited behavior continues. Again, be aware of any constraints within the Governing Documents regarding what is allowed.
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When revoking privileges doesn’t work, you may have the right to issue fines. Talk to your client and consult the HOA’s governing documents to see how much power you have as the manager. Depending on the situation, you may require permission before issuing a monetary fine.
Issuing fines for violations can be a very effective way to enforce rules. No one likes to pay a fine, and knowing that a rule violation could cost $50, $100, or $500 will make residents think twice before breaking a rule. If your clients’ HOA has established monetary fines for certain violations, make sure you communicate this whenever you issue verbal or written warnings.
Institute a Lien
In very serious situations, your HOA clients can empower you to issue a lien against homeowners on their behalf. This is usually reserved for extreme violations and repeat offenders who have damaged the community or created a negative environment for other residents.
A lien means that the HOA declares the right to take the homeowner’s property until they remedy their negative behavior. For example, a lien may be issued if the homeowner causes excess monetary damage to a common space and doesn’t pay. Liens are usually the first step in a legal battle, at which point you’ll help your clients hire attorneys to handle the situation.
Call Security or Local Law Enforcement
Liens are one of the most serious actions you can take to enforce HOA rules, but they’re best used against violators who aren’t causing an immediate threat or breaking the law. However, in some cases, you may need to call security or get local law enforcement involved. Never risk your own safety or the safety of other residents. Instead, use the association’s private security, if they have any, or call the police.
Enforce Your Clients’ HOA Rules with CINC Systems
With the right association management software, enforcing your clients’ HOA rules is easier than ever. Try CINC Systems to see how our platform can help you post rules online, track warnings, and issue citations. To request a free demo call (855) 943-8246.