One of the most unpleasant parts of being involved in an HOA board is dealing with homeowners who are in violation of the covenant. Keeping the residents and their homes in compliance is necessary to maintain the integrity of the HOA. However, the approach taken towards homes in noncompliance can mean the difference between a quickly corrected situation with an understanding resident, or a messy standoff with an angry resident who badmouths the HOA and trims their street-facing shrubs into offensive shapes.
Here are a few rules of thumb to help approach a situation when a homeowner is in violation of the HOA covenant, without stirring up a neighborhood feud.
Provide multiple notices. Chances are, the homeowner doesn’t realize they have broken a covenant law. Simply making them aware of the situation is a great place to start. Remember that face-to-face conversations are always better than a letter that can be interpreted as dry or harsh, and is subject to being misinterpreted.
Offer to recommend a service provider, or help the homeowner resolve the issue yourself. Their home may have fallen into noncompliance as a result of the homeowner going through a troubling time. Offering your assistance is both neighborly and a nice way to open up amicable conversation about the situation.
Be specific on what needs to be corrected, without being harsh, and provide a link to CC&Rs This is where the covenants, conditions, and restrictions are displayed.
Don’t make threats of legal action with a first notice. Homeowners will usually correct actions with a verbal reminder. Leading with heavy-handed consequence threats will damage your relationship with the homeowners, and the reputation of the HOA.
If the problem is not resolved after the first notice, follow up with a warning notice and include a list of consequences. This may be suggesting that the issue be resolved by the HOA, fines, liens, or other legal action.
If all other communications have failed, provide a notice of corrective action. Provide clear detail on what has been put into action due to their noncompliance, and include a history of your attempts to reach out about the issue.
Always keep in mind that while you have a job to do for the board, the residents have chosen to move into a neighborhood governed by an HOA because they see the benefits. Approaching situations that arise in the neighborhood with kindness and support will make a huge difference in the way your HOA is perceived, and how approachable you seem to residents.
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