RULE ENFORCEMENT, MOST DIFFICULT ASPECT OF AN HOA

Your Homeowner’s Association Board has a duty to reasonably enforce the covenants and rules, and to avoid risking liability to the Board, its committee members or to the entire association.  At the same time, Board members are residents of the association, live there and are friends with many within their association.  Unfortunately, enforcing those rules may result in personal attacks, disharmony and polarization.  As a Board member, this aspect of governing can either disenfranchise your association or bring it together. 

Enforcing the association’s rules can cause destructive emotional conflicts, but understanding the two most important, fundamental, undercurrents of home ownership are necessary.  They are:

  1. It is my land, and nobody can tell me how I can use it.
  2. The use of one’s land affects the neighbor’s rights, and the rights of subsequent purchasers.

Violators can become very emotional and passionate about their belief, and can become unreasonable about the enforcement action taken.  Moreover, compliant neighbors can become emotional about the lack of enforcement taken.

Why Have Rules

  • To protect property values and the assets of the community
  • Required by law and are agreed to when purchasing a property within an association
  • Legal Obligation: A Board and its individual members are considered agents of a corporation and are liable for the actions their nonprofit organization; in addition to, the entire association may have to bear the burden of any financial penalty imposed in the form of increased assessments
  • To avoid court rulings against the association and expensive legal fees for poorly developed or enforced rules
  • To promote community harmony and to facilitate a compliant community culture.

Violators can be lumped into four categories:

  • Uninformed homeowners: Are frequently first time home buyers who are not familiar with the HOA concept, to experienced, but apathetic homeowners, to culturally diverse communities where knowledge and language barriers compound issues. Use educational opportunities such as a welcoming brochure, emails and a website to inform
  • Procrastinators: Homeowners who delay taking care of the concerns or never get around to resolving the issue.  Use enforcement procedures as outlined in your covenants, and be persistent.
  • Hardship cases: These violators are often willing to remedy the violation when they understand the escalating costs of enforcement and that the association may be willing to waive the fines for compliance and/or arrange a payment plan.  With reasonable notification that results in no action, it may be possible that there are other circumstances beyond the HOA violation. 
  • Defiant homeowners: A threatening initial communication will often result in a defensive and threatening response.  Attempt conflict negotiation and be diplomatic at all times.  Follow enforcement procedures and try to prevent escalation.  If your HOA has an association manager, ask them to mediate the situation. 

In all situations, the association should open the door to establish communications and express a desire to work together to address the issue.  The end result should be to foster understanding, so that the association’s culture is harmonic. 

As a professional association manager, MGM has had its share of confrontations.  MGM has chaired, negotiated and refereed numerous concerns from the Board’s perspective to confrontations between neighbors.  In almost all cases, communication is the primary skill required to resolve confrontations.  For more information, contact our office at (208) 846-9189 or visit www.gomgm.com.  



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