No one likes homeowner association (HOA) violations. Board members don’t like to see people break the rules, residents don’t like being penalized, and HOA managers don’t like to play the role of the enforcer. But HOA rules are important for the overall success of the community. Many HOA rules cover noise, parking, holiday decorations, landscaping, or other elements of community life that ensure the HOA is a safe and respectful place for all residents.
HOA rules are outlined in a governing document called the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions, often referred to as the CC&Rs. The CC&Rs explain all the rules of the HOA which residents are required to follow. They help preserve property values, keep the neighborhood clean and orderly, and protect residents’ safety.
By law, HOAs are required to give a copy of the CC&Rs to every new homeowner who joins the association. They are also given to prospective buyers so they can review the rules before committing to purchase a home in the community. When someone purchases a home within the HOA, they must agree to abide by the CC&Rs.
In an ideal world, no one would purchase property in the HOA if they intended to violate the CC&Rs. Unfortunately, violations still occur — often with regularity. As an HOA manager, you are responsible for handling these violations. Luckily, there are ways to prevent them. With the tips below, you can help reduce HOA violations.
Tip #1. Make Sure Everyone Knows the Rules
Many HOA rule violations occur simply because the violator didn’t know they were doing anything wrong. CC&Rs can be very long and detailed, and it’s not uncommon for homeowners within the HOA to simply forget about a specific rule. Additionally, they may have a household member such as a roommate or child who never read the CC&Rs, to begin with. This means people in the HOA may violate rules unintentionally.
Accidental violations may also occur when a resident isn’t paying attention. For example, someone listening to loud music may violate a “quiet hours” ordinance simply because they lost track of the time.
To cut back on unintentional violations, make sure everyone is familiar with all the rules as outlined in the CC&Rs. Use HOA management software like CINC Systems to create a resident web portal where the CC&Rs can be downloaded in case homeowners have lost their original copy or other residents need to review them.
Additionally, post-physical signs that outline the HOA’s rules in shared common areas, such as entryways, mailrooms, laundry facilities, or gyms. Make these signs hard to miss. If the HOA has regulations that are seasonal, such as restrictions on winter holiday decorations, emphasize these rules as the season approaches. You can also send email newsletters to remind residents about the rules as needed.
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Tip #2. Explain the Penalties for Violations
It’s important for HOA residents to understand the rules of their community so they don’t break them accidentally. However, some residents may be less conscientious and don’t care about violations. For these residents, explaining the penalties can be an effective tool to prevent violations.
Does the HOA implement a “three strikes” system, with a warning followed by monetary fines or revoking community privileges? If violations incur fines, how much are they? Can serious violations result in law enforcement involvement? Make sure that your client’s violation protocol is clearly defined, then make it available to all residents in the community web portal and signage.
Tip #3. Enforce Rules with Consistency
Educating and spreading the word about rules and penalties is one important way to reduce HOA violations. However, these measures can prove ineffective if the rules aren’t actively enforced. If residents are consistently allowed to “get away with” breaking the rules, it sets a poor example for the community.
No one likes to be the bad cop, but as an HOA manager, part of your job is maintaining the quality of the community. This means it’s up to you to enforce the rules. This means enforcing them universally for all residents. Don’t give anyone an extra verbal warning or let them slide on paying fees for a violation. This may not be the most fun part of your job, but enforcing the rules with consistency will ultimately help reduce HOA violations.
Tip #4. Be Available to Answer Questions
You can also help reduce HOA violations by being available to the community to answer questions. Make sure your client’s residents have your phone number and email or provide a space in the resident web portal where they can send you messages. If a resident is confused about a rule, encourage them to talk to you directly rather than make assumptions.
This is also very important whenever there are changes to the CC&Rs. When the board votes to change a rule for the community, these changes are communicated to the entire HOA. However, it’s not uncommon for residents to have questions about new rules or changes to existing rules. By creating an open dialogue with your client’s residents, you can help reduce HOA violations.
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Tip #5. Foster an Active HOA Community
Similarly, foster an active community within your client’s HOA. Create a calendar on the HOA web portal that clearly lists the dates of every board meeting so residents can attend. Similarly, encourage your clients to hold events for the HOA community such as meet-and-greets or holiday parties.
Having a sense of community leads to greater awareness of others. When HOA residents get to know their neighbors and feel like they’re a part of a strong community, they’re less likely to violate the rules. Many will want to work together to preserve their community and reduce violations.
Use CINC Systems to Create Resident Web Portals
To create a resident web portal to help reduce HOA violations, try CINC Systems. Our cloud-based HOA management platform provides a number of valuable tools for association managers and the communities they serve. For a free CINC Systems software demo, click here.