One of the most challenging aspects of being a Tacoma HOA board member is enforcing all of the community rules and regulations. Although it may not happen often, when a homeowner violates a community rule or bylaw, the board must address it swiftly and promptly. Handling such sensitive subjects can be tricky, as the enforcement must be done in such a way that it doesn’t encourage an overly negative response from the offending homeowner but simultaneously remains fair to the rest of the residents and their quality of living. If you’re having trouble handling rule enforcement in your community association, here are a few steps to help guide you along this delicate process.
Check the Bylaws
If you suspect that a resident violates one of your community’s laws, the first thing to do is check your HOA’s CC&Rs or bylaws. This will not only help you double-check that they are in fact violating the rule, but it should also outline enforcement policies and give you a guide for how to handle the violation.
Send a Warning Letter
For many communities, the first step in handling a violation is to send a warning letter. Depending on the severity of the law being broken and the resident’s past history (or lack thereof) violating rules, you may feel it’s appropriate to issue a one-time warning rather than immediately issuing a violation notice. This will give the homeowner an opportunity to right their wrong or stop doing whatever they’re doing that violates your HOA’s rules. If they fail to heed the warning, further action will then be necessary.
Send Notice of Violation
If the homeowner fails to correct their actions, or if you feel that a warning letter isn’t appropriate for the situation, then the next step is to send an official notice of violation to the resident. This letter should be fairly simple, outlining the violation and the consequences of the violation, including any fees they’ll need to pay. If you’re unsure of how to draft a violation notice, ask your HOA management company for examples to reference.
Hold a Hearing
After issuing the initial violation, you may want to hold a hearing with the offending resident and the HOA board. This hearing will aim to establish the legitimacy of the violation and give the homeowner a platform to explain their side of the issue. If the homeowner does not show up for the hearing, or if they refuse to pay the fine and an agreement is not made, you can then consider taking further action.
Suspend Rights & Privileges
The most common next step after issuing a violation, if the homeowner does not pay the owed fees, is to suspend their rights and privileges as a member of the community association. This means that any amenities, community events, or voting privileges would not be available to the resident until the fines have been paid.
Impose a Lien or Take Legal Action
If you have a homeowner who is entirely uncooperative and you feel drastic measures are necessary, your HOA may have the authority to impose a lien against their property. You may also be able to file a lawsuit in small claims court, depending on your state and local laws. Some HOAs are required to attempt to resolve any issues through mediation or arbitration before going to court. Of course, no one wants to have to resort to legal action, so it is best to first consider all other options and attempt to resolve the issue in other ways.
Enforcing your community’s rules can be a tedious task, but it’s a necessary one. If you feel you need guidance on or assistance with HOA rule enforcement, speak to an experienced HOA management firm such as The Management Trust. With more than 30 years in the industry and over 1,500 communities successfully managed, we have the expertise to guide you in all aspects of community association management. To find out more about our comprehensive HOA management services, give The Management Trust a call today at (253) 472-0825 or fill out our online contact form.