As a homeowner association (HOA) manager, part of your job includes handling CC&R violations. HOAs provide residents with many great benefits, providing community guidelines that make the association’s neighborhood a peaceful, desirable place to live. Unfortunately, as with any organization that has rules, there will always be violations from time to time.
The best association managers know how to handle HOA violations for their clients. You can make your services even more valuable to your clients by helping their associations enforce the community’s rules. When someone defies the association’s guidelines, address the transgression promptly and help the HOA board apply adequate consequences.
If you’re wondering how to handle HOA violations, exercise clear judgment and follow the methods outlined below. Be impartial, emotionally detached, and communicate efficiently when you need to handle HOA violations on your clients’ behalf. This will ensure that you help your clients create and maintain a thriving community for their homeowners.
Make Sure HOA Rules Are Clear
First, make sure the HOA rules are understood by all residents. There’s an old Latin saying that goes, “Ignorantia juris non excusat.” This roughly translates to mean “ignorance of the law excuses no one.” While this concept is valid for major transgressions, especially criminal activity, the vast majority of common HOA rule violations occur due to sheer innocence.
In other words, residents frequently commit HOA violations simply because they don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong. They may not be aware of rules concerning landscaping guidelines, quiet hours, guest parking, or other community guidelines. By making sure that residents understand the HOA rules, you’ll be able to stop many violations before they occur.
When a new homeowner moves into an association neighborhood, they’re always issued governing documents containing all the HOA rules and guidelines. Still, many residents forget to consult these documents, lose them, or fail to share them with other household members such as roommates or children.
To ensure that all HOA residents know the rules, use association management software to create a community web portal. Then, post all rules and guidelines online, where residents can access them 24/7. It’s also a good idea to post a physical copy of the rules on community message boards and send annual reminder emails.
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Don’t Go Overboard
When you handle HOA violations for your clients, it’s important to act with authority. Don’t let residents try to talk you out of a citation or otherwise disrespect your role as the association manager. Be decisive. Your clients are relying on you to deal with residents who break the HOA rules, so respond to violators accordingly.
However, make sure you don’t go overboard. Because of your presence in the HOA community, you’ll be interacting with residents on a regular basis. If they start to think of you as the “bad guy,” it can be much harder to do your job. When you have to handle HOA violations, issue consequences appropriately.
For example, if a resident violates quiet hours by 10 minutes and it’s their first offense, don’t react by serving them a $500 citation. Likewise, if a resident continually violates rules and creates a harmful environment for other members of the community, a verbal warning won’t be enough. Always use your best judgment.
Issue a Warning
HOAs can have a wide variety of rules, some more than others. These rules can range in severity, from guidelines for using the community pool to regulations prohibiting in-home retail businesses. Whether a rule seems big or small, violators are often unaware that they’re breaking it. Thus, a warning is usually the best first step to take when handling HOA violations.
Depending on the infraction, a verbal warning may be enough to stop a violator from breaking the rules. However, if they continue to go against the community guidelines, you will need to issue a written warning. A written warning also creates a paper trail for your client’s records, which can be useful in case the violation continues and/or progresses.
In some instances, you may choose to implement a “three strikes” policy for issuing warnings. This can be useful for enforcing HOA rules which require a timeline. For example, if a resident paints their porch with a color that violates the HOA’s aesthetic guidelines, it will take them time to have the porch repainted. You can issue multiple warnings via a three-strikes system to motivate them to resolve the issue faster.
Revoke Access to Community Privileges
If a verbal or written warning doesn’t deter residents who violate the HOA rules, you have other options. You can begin by revoking access to community privileges and shared spaces. For example, you could ban the resident from using the pool or fitness center. Bans could be temporary or indefinite.
Revoking privileges is a great way to put a resident “on notice” without issuing monetary citations or taking other, more serious actions. Often, the threat of a ban will be enough to motivate the violator to follow the rules.
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Issue Monetary Citations
Next, it’s time to issue monetary citations. When all else fails, no one wants to be forced to pay fees, so this usually stops the prohibited behavior. Work with your client and their board to decide how much to cite different types of violations. Smaller violations, such as using a community laundry room after-hours, could invoke a small $20 fine, while severe violations like unauthorized construction could cost the violator upwards of $500.
Additionally, plan a scale for recurring violations. Do repeat offenders pay double for the second violation? Triple for the third? Once your client’s HOA has implemented a fee structure for its various citations, make sure this information is displayed in the residents’ web portal or posted to a community bulletin board. Knowing how much they’ll be forced to pay for breaking certain rules will make potential violators think twice.
Impose a Lien
Finally, if warnings, revoking privileges, and issuing fines don’t deter a resident from breaking the association’s rules, you and your client can consider imposing a lien.
Although they usually require attorneys, a lien is a very effective way of handling HOA violations. Liens are useful when a resident has not paid their association dues or violation fees, or if they cause damage to a common space and don’t pay for it.
Handle HOA Violations with CINC Systems
It’s never fun to handle HOA violations, but you can make this part of your job easier with the right association management software. Try CINC Systems today and see how our cloud-based platform gives you all the tools to help your clients with their community guidelines. Call (855) 943-8246 to request a free demo.