Have you noticed the debate over HOA rules and enforcement tactics — sometimes over seemingly petty issues — has gone more mainstream? HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver covered homeowner associations and the “surprising power they have” in one of the latest episodes. And this AJC piece from CINC’s own backyard is yet another example of how the national sentiment seems to favor homeowners, with lobbying groups taking their side in some cases. These stories all fall into the sentiment we heard in our State of the Industry Report – that most associations are not satisfied with their management companies.
Homeowners are desperate to have their voices heard, even if it means talking to the media, getting lawyers involved, or airing their grievances on social media. This means that a “business as usual” approach to addressing homeowner mishaps won’t cut it. Improving two-way communication means the need for transparency, convenience, and empathy.
We know this to be true: basic HOA and COA rules, such as lawn maintenance and street parking, are not only important in maintaining community standards but effective in improving home value. Now, this isn’t true of all rules. If you’re fining homeowners for a garden gnome, don’t be surprised when you see that violation letter in your TikTok feed. But most CCRs are fair and balanced. We find that when homeowners go berserk on the violation letters they receive, it usually isn’t about the actual rule they violated. Rather, they are frustrated by the way in which it was communicated.
Emotional intelligence is a topic we’re heavily focused on this year at CINC, because we believe that management companies training their teams on EQ will experience significantly higher customer satisfaction.
Here’s an example of applying EQ to a violation letter: Let’s say you have a homeowner who left their trash can out for two extra days, and for them, this isn’t a common occurrence. You could send out a boilerplate letter during your inspection in just a couple of clicks. But what if that homeowner left their trashcan out because they just lost their job and their mind has been obviously preoccupied? When they receive their letter on top of the true crisis happening in their life, all of the anger that they feel towards their job loss will be reflected in their reaction to your letter. And then, the virality hits.
If this isn’t a common occurrence for that homeowner, what if you add a quick note in your email that says, “Hi! I know that this isn’t a usual issue for you, so I hope everything’s okay. I appreciate having you in this association and can work with you on clearing up this real quick. Please let me know if you need anything from me.” Not only is it less likely that the homeowner will feel upset by your violation, but they may even feel appreciated by you as they are going through a hard time.
This is exactly what EQ is all about – putting yourself in the shoes of the other person, being aware of their experiences, and applying that to your communication. As Terri Allen from Spectrum Association Management puts it, “Make it easy for homeowners to do business with you – make it easy with tools and access…HOAs, in general, have a stigma so creating that love language in property notices or communication that goes out to them is important.”
Keeping homeowner hostility at bay doesn’t just happen because of strong communication tactics. Mobile technology that speeds up processes, provides easy-to-use self-service techniques, and enhances transparency is also key.
For example, the most “liked” video on TikTok about HOAs (warning: explicit language) is a homeowner sharing how her HOA issued a violation letter to her when it was meant to go to her neighbor. Unfortunately, the violation letter mishap took place while the homeowners were grieving the loss of their child. While human error happens, her HOA didn’t have technology in place to allow her to quickly address/reply to the violation with the Ring videos/photos she can easily access on her phone. Instead, she had to document and print the proof before heading to the post office to mail her response.
Bottom line: The more tools you provide to managers and boards, the less likely you are to be the next viral anti-HOA sensation.
What steps are you taking to improve two-way communication, transparency, and convenience for homeowners (and NOT end up on the wrong side of a viral story)? Keep the conversation going by visiting our Rethink Community series, and let us know if you’d like to demo our mobile offerings.