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6 Tips to Manage HOA Repeat Rule Violators
As an HOA community manager, part of your job includes handling CC&R violations. HOAs provide residents with many great benefits, providing community guidelines that make the association’s neighborhood a peaceful, desirable place to live. Unfortunately, as with any organization that has rules, there will always be violations from time to time.
Knowing how to handle repeat rule violators and escalate appropriately is important for any HOA community manager. Following a checklist can help keep a level head and ultimately resolve the problem rather than making it worse. Here are a few actions to take if you’re struggling with a repeat HOA rule violator.
- Know your covenants inside and out
Be sure to read (and re-read) your CC&Rs and determine for sure that a rule is being violated. Serial violators love to find loopholes and exploit them – and if your rules aren’t explicit, it may be very difficult to enforce them.
- Gather evidence and document everything
This is imperative if things do become more serious. You can’t go by another community member’s accusations alone. Save all of the communications between the board and the homeowner, and document what rule was being violated and the time and place of violation. All of this will be helpful if the issue turns into a legal matter.
- Send an HOA violation letter
This is a good first step to take to notify the homeowner of a violation. When stating the purpose, use a professional and respectful tone — especially when it comes to describing the violation.
Be sure to reference and cite your CC&Rs with the violation being done by the homeowner. Use as much detail necessary so that the owner has a full understanding of why they are being given a violation letter.
- Suspend access to community privileges
If a verbal or written warning doesn’t deter residents who violate the HOA rules, it may be time to introduce some consequences. HOA community managers can begin by revoking access to community privileges and shared spaces, such as the pool, fitness center, or clubhouse. Bans like this can be temporary or indefinite.
Revoking privileges is a great way to put a resident “on notice” without issuing monetary citations or taking other, more serious actions. Often, the threat of a ban will be enough to motivate the violator to follow the rules. Be sure to tie these measures to the behavior you’re trying to correct so you don’t come across as picking on the individual and end up influencing them to dig in their heels.
- Impose fines
No one wants to be forced to pay fees, so this is a good step for HOA community managers to take if previous actions haven’t worked. Work with your board to decide how much to cite different types of violations. Smaller violations, such as using a community laundry room after-hours, could invoke a small $20 fine, while severe violations like unauthorized construction could cost the violator upwards of $500. Any fines you impose should be reasonable and in line with what you consistently impose on everyone.
- File a lawsuit
If you receive a judgement against a homeowner, you will likely be able to take money from their bank account or garnish wages, or even set a lien on their mortgage. No one likes the idea of depriving a homeowner of his or her home, but this may be the last resort to deal with problems when the homeowner just won’t be reasoned with.
Hopefully for all involved, it will be a rare occasion to bring a lawsuit. And if you do your due diligence early, it will be.