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Code Violations: How to Ensure Owner Compliance

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Sep 18, 2019 | 0 Comments

It's not easy to get an entire community of homeowners to comply with all the rules and regulations of the association. Here are 4 steps you can take to encourage compliance

One of the biggest challenges for homeowners' associations (HOAs) or condo associations is getting every resident within the community to comply with the governing rules and regulations. Property managers and association boards alike struggle with rule enforcement, and conflicts often arise because of related disagreements.

Common areas of rule violations include things like:

  • Home appearance guidelines, such as landscaping or paint color
  • The type and number of vehicles homeowners can have, or parking issues
  • The type and number of pets homeowners can have
  • Noise constraints
  • Types of trash thrown into dumpsters
  • Renting out or subletting homes or units

When you're at a loss for how to manage these challenges, try these tips to ensure that owners comply with the association rules and conflicts are avoided, or at least minimized.

1.  Communication is key

Sometimes conflicts arise because residents believe they're being treated differently than other residents, or they don't understand why a rule is in place. When this happens, some homeowners may push back against a rule or refuse to comply with it.

One way to prevent this from happening is to implement strong communication strategies that ensure every homeowner knows what will happen if they fail to comply with the association rules. If you clearly communicate expectations and repercussions for noncompliance, residents will not be able to argue that they are being treated differently than others.

It's also helpful and effective to explain why a rule is in place, instead of just asking residents to follow it blindly. This helps everyone understand why the guideline is important, and they'll be more willing to comply.

2.  When to fine for violations

One aspect of the compliance policy that must be clearly and regularly communicated is any fine that will apply for noncompliance.

Fines are one of the most common ways to enforce rules within HOAs and condo associations. However, they are often not the first step after a rule is broken, but a consequence for continued noncompliance. An effective first step may be to issue a simple warning, and then escalate to penalties if residents are unwilling to comply, eventually reaching the fine stage.

It's important that residents understand what the fines will be if they fail to comply with a rule. It shouldn't be a surprise that they are fined, and the amounts of fines should have been communicated clearly ahead of time.

3.  Emphasize the potential for legal action

Some homeowners may not know how serious it is to violate a rule within their HOA or condo association. Many rules are in place to keep the association in compliance with local laws and regulations, and they weren't necessarily created arbitrarily for an applicable community.

Emphasize this fact to residents. Let them know that local law enforcement could actually enforce some of the rules, which may help residents understand how important it is to comply.

Additionally, if residents believe they have been unfairly charged with a violation, they could bring the association to court. Depending on the type of violation and the amount of money at stake, these matters can become messy and very costly to both the resident and the association.

4.  Always be consistent

No matter who the violator is or how small the violation seems, always follow the procedures in place for penalties so no member of the community is ever treated differently than others. It can be a challenge for a property manager to enforce a fine for the first time, but it must be done.

Charged homeowners will pay attention to how they're treated versus other residents. And if a matter is brought to court, they could have a valid argument if they were treated differently than another homeowner in the same situation.

In sum, the most important step you can take to help prevent compliance issues and potential legal battles are to clearly communicate rules, regulations, and expectations. Then make sure all residents are aware of potential penalties should they fail to comply, and always implement rules consistently.

At PeytonBolin, we understand how difficult it can be to deal with compliance issues in your community association. Reach out to our team of attorneys to better understand the steps you can take to ensure compliance, or if you have questions about legal matters within your association.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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