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HOA: can you prevent disputes with homeowners?

Homeowners Associations (HOA) bring order to a community. They ensure a minimum appearance standard, maintain community spaces and collect dues for community upkeep. Despite their good intentions, homeowners and their HOA regularly fall into contention. Arguments over something as small as a house’s paint color can quickly escalate to expensive litigation costs. What can you do to keep peace with homeowners?

 

Set expectations

Before a homeowner purchases within your community, schedule a meeting to discuss your community’s covenants, codes and restrictions (CC&Rs). Carefully walk the potential buyer through any aesthetic, pet, or noise restrictions. Some commonly governed items include:

  • Pets – type and number
  • Exterior appearance of homes – colors, building materials, design style
  • Yard and landscaping – pools, gardens and fences
  • Additional structures – sheds, detached garages, mailboxes and playgrounds
  • Noise level –quiet hours, restrictions on social gatherings

Talk through potential areas of contention. Ensure that they are willing, and happy, to abide by community rules.

Explain HOA fees

HOAs collect yearly dues to maintain community spaces and prepare for unplanned expenses. Occasionally, you may need to raise dues to fund a project or take care of an emergency repair. Dues are one of the highest contention points with homeowners. If you do not properly explain raises in fees, you run the risk of angering homeowners, creating resentment and facing retaliation.

Explain fees before a homeowner moves into a community. Provide them with a sheet explaining the amount of the yearly fee, the HOA’s total holdings and a breakdown of how you will spend the funds. Clearly state in writing that fees are subject to change based on a number of factors.

When you know that you will raise fees, immediately send a letter to all of the homeowners or hold a community meeting. Explain the fee increase, and how you will use the extra funds to improve the community. You should be able to clearly explain why you are asking them to pay more, and how they will benefit from the additional fees.

Problems will arise

Despite your best intentions, and communication efforts, problems will arise. Homeowners may intentionally break HOA rules or refuse to pay fees. If you are having trouble with a homeowner, consider contacting an attorney who can protect your legal interests.

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