Conflicts are not uncommon for any HOA. Since the recession, finance issues with developers, foreclosures and other unfortunate deals have left many HOA’s having a tough time getting their functionality on track. It is understandable that owning a home is a huge investment and when owners of a similar asset come together with different ideas and interests, emotions can run high.
The good news is that interacting with or serving on the Board of an HOA doesn’t have to be a negative experience. With some guidelines in place, your service can be enjoyable and rewarding.
The HOA acts as a manager to assess dues and assessments, enforce laws and impose fines, even place liens on the property and forcibly sell to satisfy liens. State law regulates aspects of HOA but the HOA bylaws, known as CC&Rs, are the rules and regulations to which all must comply. When it comes to conflict, the CC&Rs generally have an official grievance procedure.
All grievance procedures should be followed before resorting to a lawsuit, and most problems can be solved with internal procedures. If your HOA is especially large or has a high number of issues, you might consider putting together a grievance committee specifically to address problems.
Thanks to email and text, many issues can be resolved without having to call a special Board meeting. And let’s face it, no one looks forward to meetings to address problems. Many CC&R’s require requests of the HOA to be in writing, which can be done with an emailed PDF and can sometimes be resolved with just a few emails.
Is your next-door neighbor smoking too many cigarettes on her porch? Is someone else parking in your assigned parking spot? Legality may call for a grievance letter, but instead, you might try speaking to your HOA President or Property Manager. Oftentimes they are more than happy to speak to a tenant and address a small issue quickly, rather than let an unresolved problem escalate. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of the latest HOA meeting notes in a handy file, so you are aware of current events and laws.
Rule enforcement like towing cars, issuing fines, and legal action are simply unpleasant, even if they are clearly within your rights as an HOA Board. Instead of resorting to extreme measures, it might be worthwhile to brainstorm, as a team, less harsh ways to enforce the rules on a case by case basis. For example, someone late on the HOA fees could agree to a payment plan or you could call a special meeting for a tenant who is not following the parking rules to ensure they understand. While it is important to support management and Board Members, you don’t want a complex of people full of animosity and distrust.
HOA’s typically vote-in Board Members at an annual meeting. Try recruiting strong members who might have a long history of ownership in the complex, have experience in other complexes or have good professional expertise. Also important is that new board members are personable. There’s no way to foresee upcoming issues, but you can create a strong and dynamic group of people who work well together to address them.
The more disputes you handle, the more experience you’ll gain. Following the grievance procedure stated in CC&R’s, punctual and thoughtful action and above all, good communication are key features of an HOA skilled in conflict resolution. To think all problems will eventually go away isn’t practical, but with a strong HOA Board, you may find yourself dealing with less of them.
Image: North Charleston