Your HOA or condo association has certain obligations per its governing documents, but what can tenants do if they neglect those duties? Here are some common association violations, and 3 ways owners can push back.
One of the advantages of living in a homeowners' association (HOA) or condo association is the comfort of knowing that the association will handle difficult responsibilities such as dispute management and maintenance of common spaces. But problems can arise if the association board doesn't respond to requests, pushes back on complaints, or just takes too long to address the issues.
Here are three ways homeowners can force the association to act.
1. Look at the governing documents
First, you need to read the bylaws and the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) of your association to see the responsibilities and obligations they place on the association. Sometimes rules and regulations are listed elsewhere, so gather all the applicable documents (which should have been provided upon joining the community).
Common guidelines outlined in the governing documents include things like maintenance responsibilities, repair request response times, and replacement policies for defective equipment. Financial terms, such as membership dues and allowable assessments to pay for repairs or maintenance, should also be outlined.
Before taking any additional steps, if you've experienced pushback or delays in addressing your requests, study these documents to fully understand the obligations of your association. This will help make your case and get them to act faster. You also might find that the association is acting within its rights.
2. Know your rights
Fortunately for homeowners, there are laws in place that protect you from certain violating behavior. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 limits association powers and protects HOA residents from discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin. This would protect you if, say, you have reason to believe your repair request isn't being answered because of discrimination.
Do your research about similar laws that could impact the concerns you are experiencing. It's possible you could present information about your rights to the association and encourage them to act.
Hopefully, this process will address your issue or at least get all parties working from the same set of expectations.
3. Initiate a lawsuit
Once you have referenced the governing documents, if the association is still violating its obligations, you could meet with an attorney to discuss taking legal action. A big factor in whether this is the right step is whether or not you can prove that the association is not performing its duties as specified in the governing documents and applicable laws.
If there is a violation, your lawyer could suggest filing a negligence charge, breach of fiduciary duty, or breach of covenant. It's always a good idea to discuss your options with a legal professional before making any final decisions.
Here's what each of those charges means, and how they would be enforced.
Breach of fiduciary duty
The HOA or condo association has a responsibility to maintain the finances of the community. When these are not properly managed, it can lead the association to put off things like maintenance and repairs.
This type of breach could also apply to an association board member if he or she failed to act with reasonable diligence or failed to act in the best interest of the entire community. For example, if a board member invested some of the association's funds in stocks and lost the money, that would be breach of fiduciary duty.
A negligence charge could be made against an association if harm was caused by failing to perform a duty. For example, if a resident is hurt in a fall because the grounds were not properly maintained, someone might face a negligence charge.
Breach of covenant
The governing documents most likely require the association to maintain common areas or respond promptly to requests and complaints. If the association fails to satisfy the terms or does not act diligently, it may be possible to sue for breach of covenant. This charge means the association is not acting in accordance with its governing laws and commitments.
Other issues that may arise with your HOA or condo association, so it's always a good idea to study the governing documents and talk to an attorney about your specific situation. The bylaws and CC&Rs exist so the association's responsibilities are clear and issues are handled in the best way possible.
If you feel your HOA or condo association is not living up to its responsibilities, contact us at Peyton Bolin. Our attorneys can help you understand your rights, the association's responsibilities, and the best course of action to address any issues. If necessary, we can also help you take appropriate legal action and get the redress you deserve.