As a homeowner association (HOA) manager, dealing with violations is often the least enjoyable part of the job. Yet it’s also one of your most important duties. Your HOA clients are counting on you to help keep their community safe, peaceful, and welcoming to all residents. That’s why you need to know how to manage HOA violations.
Whenever you acquire a new HOA client, ask to see a copy of their Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions or CC&Rs. This is a governing document that all HOAs must-have, which outlines the complete rules for the community. CC&Rs define guidelines for homeowners and members of their household, from rules about parking, noise restrictions, landscaping, home construction, and more. Always familiarize yourself with your client’s CC&Rs so you can be prepared to manage HOA violations accordingly.
Learning how to manage HOA violations will make you a more effective association manager. Even if you manage HOAs with a small number of properties and a lower population, sooner or later you’ll still need to manage violations. However, taking steps to mitigate these violations and assist community members with the rules can make your job as an HOA manager much easier.
Here are some ways to manage HOA violations.
1. Take Steps to Prevent Violations
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” One of the best ways to manage HOA violations is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Although you can’t control how residents will behave, there are ways you can encourage HOA members to follow the rules and lower infraction rates.
Many association managers follow three basic steps to help reduce HOA violations:
- Post Rules: First, post the rules. Many HOA violations are unintentional and occur because the resident simply forgot about a specific rule. Whenever someone buys property in an HOA, they are given a copy of the CC&Rs. However, it’s easy to forget or overlook a specific rule, and documents may become lost over time. Make sure that your client’s CC&Rs are available online in a resident web portal and visibly posted in communal spaces such as lobbies or mailrooms.
- Post Penalties: Second, make sure that residents are aware of the penalties for HOA violations. Post any fees or other disciplinary actions where residents can access them easily, such as the resident web portal or a common area. Realizing that they can be theoretically charged hundreds of dollars or more can dramatically reduce violations.
- Invite Residents To Ask Questions: Finally, invite residents to approach you with any questions they may have. If they’re uncertain about a rule, encourage them to bring it to your attention so you can help. Creating an open dialogue with residents fosters greater community and can help reduce violations.
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2. Issue Warnings
When violations do occur, follow the disciplinary protocol outlined by your client’s board. Usually this means issuing warnings to first-time offenders. Depending on the type of violation, as well as the violator’s history, an informal verbal warning may suffice.
However, if the violation is severe or the violator has broken rules in the past, a written warning is recommended. This shows the violator that you are serious about enforcing the rules. It also creates a paper trail, which is helpful if the situation escalates.
3. Issue Violation Fines
When warnings don’t work, it’s time to issue violation fines. Again, check with your client’s association board or refer to the governing documents to see how these fees are outlined. Every HOA is different. For some, there are blanket fees for violations, while others specify different fine amounts for different infractions.
Whether it’s a traffic ticket or an HOA violation, no one likes to pay money for breaking the rules. Issuing fines can effectively address HOA violations. Residents who must pay a fee for violation of the HOA’s CC&Rs are less likely to repeat the violation or break other rules later on.
4. Revoke Privileges
As an alternative to fines, some association managers manage HOA violations by revoking the violator’s privileges. For example, if the HOA has a community pool, gym, or rec room, you can consider restricting the violator’s access to these facilities. Access can be restricted temporarily or the resident can be permanently banned.
This is another tool for managing HOA violations which offers you greater discretion about enforcement. Depending on the nature of the violation, revoking privileges can be a more effective deterrent than a fine. If a resident violates a rule concerning pool behavior, temporarily eliminating their access to the pool may be enough to prevent future violations.
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5. Take Legal Action if Needed
If awareness, fines, and revoking privilege aren’t enough to manage HOA violations, it may be necessary to take legal action. This may include issuing a lien against the violator’s property. In these extreme cases, you’ll likely be working with the association’s board to ensure that proper protocol is followed.
Obviously, if the person violating the CC&Rs is breaking the law, causing damage to other residents’ property, or threatening the health and safety of other people in the community, it’s important to call a local law enforcement agency. If the HOA uses private security, you can also call upon them to assist.
6. Remember to Always Enforce the Rules
Finally, remember to enforce the HOA’s CC&Rs without bias or exception. When you show residents that you’re serious about the rules, they’ll follow them more closely. Don’t play favorites, make excuses, or allow exceptions.
Manage HOA Violations with CINC Systems
HOA rules provide structure and safety to your client’s community and help create an amazing place for residents. As an HOA manager, you can use association management software like CINC Systems to create online web portals to help you manage HOA violations more effectively.
If you’re not using HOA management software, it’s time to see how this type of software can make a huge difference today. Click here for a free CINC Systems demo.