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How to Approach Homeowners Who Break the Rules

Rules and guidelines are developed by homeowners associations and monitored by the community association management team to ensure that properties within the community are safe, well-maintained, and retain the highest possible value. Community management services like regular inspections play a crucial role in ensuring that residents follow the rules. But how can an HOA maintain control over behaviors of individuals that affect the overall community? What happens when residents break the rules? And how can HOAs ideally prevent rule infractions in the first place?

Communicate clearly and frequently

Most residents who break community rules simply have no idea that they’re in violation. HOAs should utilize community management tools like newsletters, message boards, emails, tweets, phone calls and notices on mailboxes to communicate reminders to residents regarding rules and standards. An explanation of WHY the rule is in place reminds residents that community guidelines are not arbitrary and helps them understand how their behavior affects their neighbors and the community as a whole.

Every resident deserves due process and fair treatment

When in violation, residents should be given ample opportunity to correct the situation. Part of serving on an HOA board of directors is to put aside any personal feelings and provide fair and equitable treatment to all residents of the community. This involves removing any emotion from assessing the situation and ensuring that no one receives special treatment.

When a rule is first broken, issue a friendly reminder

Step one is to issue a kind but clear reminder about the rules and why they are in place. Keep wording friendly and positive, remembering that the resident likely made a simple mistake or didn’t realize they were in violation. As part of the reminder, establish a reasonable amount of time (usually two weeks) for the resident to correct the behavior. Set residents up for success by remaining reasonable and respectful.

If the warning goes unheeded, begin the enforcement process

The process for rule enforcement varies by community and is always outlined by each community’s governing documents. This process is based on rules put forth by the HOA and generally follows this structure: first notice, second notice, followed by a hearing before the HOA board of directors.

If a resident refuses to change their behavior, the board can impose sanctions, that often involve repercussions such as:

  • Restriction of the resident’s ability to vote
  • Removal of the resident’s ability to use common areas
  • Assessment of fines

Guidelines for assessing fines

Fines are used as a last resort and are never intended to be revenue streams for the HOA. Instead, they are meant to deter residents from violating community guidelines on an ongoing basis and should follow these basic guidelines:

  • Fines should be commensurate with the level of seriousness of the infraction
  • Fines can escalate depending on the number of violations and time the violation has been left uncorrected
  • If a resident refuses to pay a fine, the HOA can take legal action by moving the dispute to small claims court, which might result in the resident’s wage garnishment or levying the resident’s bank account. The Board may also use the fine as leverage to get the violation corrected, which is ultimately the goal.

Rely on your property management company for inspection, tracking and advice

Community management companies perform regular monthly inspections to ensure that residents are complying with community guidelines and to ensure the safety of the physical property which keeps property values high for all residents. Keystone Pacific conducts twice-monthly inspections to catch any infractions as early as possible. The property management company has no authority to establish any rules or regulations for a community; as an agent of the HOA, the management company can only enforce the guidelines set forth by the board of directors.

As experts in community management and HOA law, your property management company can guide you through the fine assessment process, will keep detailed and accurate records of rule violations with accompanying documentation, and will advise you on the law and a best course of action for your HOA if you need to escalate a situation to the courts.

If you have any questions about rule development, enforcement or any other aspects of community management, please contact Keystone Pacific at (949) 833-2600 and we’ll happily discuss your situation and explain tactics to help your community’s residents comply with rules and keep your property values high.

Do HOA better.

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