Here's what you need to know about disagreements with your Homeowner Association
If you recently purchased a home that is part of a homeowner association (HOA), you may worry that you won't align with the HOA board on everything. These home communities have certain rules and regulations that all homeowners must follow.
But why? HOAs exist primarily to maintain the value of homes in a given community. By keeping lawns mowed and the property area looking nice, for instance, the value is kept high and stable (or so the thought process goes). Additionally, HOA communities commonly offer shared spaces and facilities, like gyms or pools, which is another benefit. Because members have to pay dues to be part of the HOA, these funds often pay for the added amenities.
HOAs are becoming more and more popular each year in the United States. In 1970, 10,000 associations existed in 1970, but in 2017, there were estimated to have been at least 347,000 associations nationwide, according to the Community Associations Institute. And, Florida has the most of any state, at 47,900 associations.
So HOAs are clearly popular. But, a downside of HOAs is that all residents are not alike, and conflicts may arise about HOA decisions, rules, or expectations. First, let's look at common disputes among HOAs and residents, and then how best to handle these disputes.
What are the most common disputes within HOAs?
Because HOAs aim to keep property values high within the association, expectations about uniformity may start to wear on members. Breaking the rules of an HOA is one of the most common reasons for disputes.
For instance, a homeowner may feel that since they own their home, they shouldn't have to confirm their home's appearance to look exactly like their neighbors' homes. Some associations even govern whether flags can be raised, what paint color you can use, the building of fences, the state of the lawn or garden, or even the color of curtains or shutters.
It's easy to see, then, how some residents may not like this tight control on their home's appearance. Guidelines like these are expected when renting a home, but when you own? Thus, people may start to delay paying dues, complain to the HOA board at meetings, or just continue to break the rules.
Because membership is most often automatic or mandatory in these communities, homeowners are also bound to disagree on certain issues. HOA boards are made up of residents, all of whom may have different wishes or expectations for their home and its surroundings. Disputes may also arise when board members disagree on how to handle a dispute from another resident.
How to handle an HOA dispute
An HOA board must set up legal representation, just as a business would. If your disagreement with the rules of the HOA goes beyond voicing your opinion in a meeting and reaching a compromise is not likely, the HOA may get their attorney involved for mediation or arbitration.
To avoid this from happening in the first place, make sure you attend meetings and keep up with any changes or new rules in your HOA. This will help you figure out which opinions you want to voice early on and which rules you can agree to comply with.
If you feel that you are being treated unfairly by the HOA, or they are trying to implement actions on you that were never agreed to, you may decide to get legal representation yourself to help you with the matter. For example, if an HOA is clearly treating some homeowners differently than others, this could be a violation.
However, if you do decide to bring a lawsuit against an HOA, make sure you have completely read the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that HOAs create as their governing document.
Hopefully, if you do disagree, you and your HOA can work out a compromise that works for both of you. Otherwise, litigation may be expensive and cause additional problems and headaches. And it may cause you to consider leaving the HOA – after stressful and strenuous legal battles, how comfortable will you really be continuing to live in that community, regardless of who was right and wrong?
Navigating the legal process when an HOA dispute arises can be complicated and overwhelming. PeytonBolin has over ten years of experience in Association Law, and our attorneys would be happy to assist you with understanding your rights as a homeowner.
Get in touch with our team today for a free consultation or to learn more about the Association Law services our firm offers.