Often times it seems as though there’s a homeowners association Nazi roaming around your neighborhood looking for reasons to pick on you by sending out crazy HOA violation letters. It’s easy to get frustrated when you think your homeowners association is telling you what you can and cannot do. Actually, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Homeowners associations are charged with making sure everyone follows the rules, and a management company is essential in helping with this.
Just like you, board members are residents in a community with neighbors and friends. To a board member, it might seem like he or she has just had a job promotion and suddenly has to manage co-workers who’ve been best friends. A good property management company can make this task easier by helping the board enforce the CCRs and rules that govern their community.
It’s important that a board of directors confirms its authority to enforce rules. This can be found in the association’s bylaws. And other rules may have been adopted by the board to help with clarity. It’s critical that a board of directors has a violation process in place.
Depending On The Community’s Governing Documents, A Homeowners Association Might Have the Right To Do The Following As It Relates To HOA Violation Enforcement:
- Fine owners who have violated the covenants
- Enter an owner’s property to determine whether the owner is breaking any rules
- Enter an owner’s property to remedy a rule
- Suspend the owner’s right to use the common facilities
- Hold an owner responsible for attorney’s fees
- Place a lien on an owner’s property
The bylaws and CCRs generally also include procedures that must be followed when taking any action to enforce the rules. The HOA must provide written notice to an owner of any alleged violation and provide the owner time to remedy the issue. Most boards would rather resolve a situation amicably; they’re not out to attack any owner.
Key Community Management’s Process For Sending HOA Violation Letters
At Key Community Management, routine community-wide site inspections by our property managers are generally done biweekly, but this varies with each community. Some townhome communities prefer quarterly inspections. The HOA violation letters we use at Key Community Management have been reviewed by legal counsel. Our process is to send a compliance letter for a first violation which cites the clause from the community’s CCRs pertinent to that violation. Every letter should state a time frame in which the owner has to correct the violation. Giving an owner 10 days to correct the violation (30 days for structural issues), allows enough time to receive the letter and take measures to correct the violation before the next site inspection.
There are “Use Restrictions” in a community’s CCRs which owners should be aware of. If I see trash cans stored on the side of a home, and the CCRs state that they must be out of view, I will send a compliance letter. If I’m aware an owner has just moved in and there’s a violation, I usually send a friendly note reminding them of the violation but stating something like, “We know you’re very busy getting situated in your new home, but we wanted to make you aware of….”
How Long Is It Going To Take To Replace Your Shutter?
I often drive through neighborhoods we don’t manage and notice a missing shutter or a house that needs to be pressure washed. I find myself starting to write the address down, but I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t even manage that community! But how long should it take someone to replace a missing shutter? The shutter may have to be located; it might need to be painted or touched up; or the owner might have to contact the builder or manufacturer to order one. When owners are unable to correct the violation in the allotted time, they should call their property manager to provide a timeline for correcting it. Ignoring the letter doesn’t help anyone.
How Else Are Violations Noted?
One community I manage has a golf course. The board members who are golfers are able to see violations that are not visible to me when I’m riding down the street. There may be a trampoline or a shed, or a home construction project could be taking place that requires architectural approval. Also sometimes an owner will provide a picture of a violation in their community. We have an easy form on the Key Community Management website that enables residents to submit a violation report, which is a convenient way for a violation to be reported while providing written documentation of it.
When violations haven’t been resolved in the designated timeframe and a hearing becomes necessary, a notice should be sent 10 to 14 days or more prior to the hearing (this depends on each association’s requirements for notification). Some communities have a designated REC (Rules Enforcement Committee) which presides over the hearing. Others have their architectural review board or their board of directors preside. At the hearing, the owner has an opportunity to explain why the violation hasn’t been corrected. Unless an owner agrees to comply, generally no ruling is made at the hearing. The board makes a determination after the hearing concludes, and a hearing result letter is sent by the property manager the next day informing the owner of the decision and if there could be a fine for failure to comply.
On the other hand, if a homeowner feels singled out by the association because other neighbors have violated the same rule, the homeowner should ask to discuss this with the board of directors. The board of directors and property manager have a duty to make sure the rules are enforced and applied consistently.
Owners should remember they moved into a planned development. They can’t ignore the rules, even if they don’t necessarily agree with them.
Let us hear from you on your thoughts for managing violations. If you need help with your HOA management, contact us. Key Community Management can help your HOA manage covenant violations and enforce your HOA’s rules.