One of the reasons HOAs are such enjoyable places to live in the community are because of the benefits they offer. This might include services, aesthetics, safety, and more. For these things to exist the community operates under HOA rules. These rules outline how all of the amenities will work. Homeowners agreed to the rules in exchange for having a wonderful community to live in. It’s the board’s responsibility to make sure the homeowners follow all of the rules. All parts of a system must be working in sync. If homeowners break the rules and the board does not enforce them, services, aesthetics, safety, and all amenities can be impacted. Then other rule-following homeowners lose out on the benefits they expect and signed up for.
What Are the Rules?
Governing documents include guidelines necessary to run the HOA. These usually include Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), Bylaws, and Declarations. Like so many things in an HOA, these must comply with local, state, and federal laws. Those laws can change so it’s important to stay on top of them and adjust your governing documents as necessary. If your governing documents are different than the law, the law will win out every time. Then, you won’t legally be able to enforce anything in violation of the laws.
The most common things HOA rules cover are:
- Fee obligations, or dues;
- Rental guidelines;
- Maintenance and architecture standards (such as landscaping, fence height, etc.)
- Limits on occupancy;
- Parking regulations;
- Guidelines on using common areas or facilities, and
- Noise restrictions.
These are only some of the most common rules HOAs tend to have. More often than not, there can be many others. And the rules listed above usually have a lot of details. When HOA rules aren’t followed and need to be enforced, these details are important.
Why Are HOA Rules So Important?
One of the most important responsibilities of the board is enforcing the rules the HOA has set in place. When rules are not followed, the entire community can fall apart. This can lead to amenities deteriorating, funding being undermined, unhappy homeowners, and blame placed on the board. And if homeowners did not want to live in a community with these rules, they wouldn’t have chosen to buy property there.
Not only is it in the best interest of the entire community for rules to be enforced, but it’s one of the duties each member of the board agreed to. Homeowners can also take action if they feel the board is not fulfilling this duty. Although this is not a position any board would prefer.
When any rules or regulations are seen as unnecessary or outdated by the board, the documents can be amended. This is a much better solution rather than ignoring the rule. It is important to keep the HOA rules updated and enforced so that the community is running efficiently and smoothly.
Enforcement of HOA Rules
Making sure everyone in the community is following the HOAs rules is necessary and makes sense as an idea. But when it comes down to needing to take action, it can seem very challenging. Even for the most committed board member. Here are a few things that can make it a little easier.
First, the rules need to be enforced consistently and fairly. Letting some homeowners slide while the board cracks down on others will breed resentment and undermine the board’s authority. And part of consistency is enforcing all of the regulations. If some are ignored, it can cause confusion among homeowners on what is actually expected of them. The only guidelines they have are the governing documents.
Furthermore, enforcement of the HOA rules is very important. Enforcing the rules uniformly is helpful so that bigger problems don’t arise for the board. For example, open to lawsuits or other legal actions by homeowners can occur.
Enforcement is a step by step process that is in the governing documents in detail. This includes the escalation of financial penalties. The first step is usually a polite warning letter. This letter gives the homeowner time to resolve the issue before imposing fines. The letter should specify possible imposable fines and can give them a specific deadline as well.
Adding fines to HOA rules encourages homeowners to comply. The HOA must clearly state these fines. They must be consistent and fairly enforced throughout the HOA as well. Generally, the act of enforcement is a process, not a one-time event.
Moreover, the fines usually aren’t a one-time penalty but will be ongoing until fixing the problem. For instance, if a homeowner has a fenced-in place that isn’t in compliance with the HOA guidelines, they might be fined every week until removing the fencing. Also, to make sure the fines aren’t too high or too low, many HOAs have an escalating fine structure. This helps provide enforcement without the initial penalty being so hefty that the homeowner cannot pay it.
Lastly, if there are unpaid fines, the board can take further action. They might place a lien on the home, then pursue foreclosure or other legal action. If the homeowner feels poorly treated, there is a process in place. This can start with a hearing in an open meeting and progress to legal action. Above all, following HOA rules and regulations is essential when running a thriving community.