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The 9 Most Common HOA Violations and How to Avoid Them

Learn to avoid the top 9 HOA violations with tips for a peaceful community. Master compliance and dispute resolution for a happier neighborhood.
Camille Moore | Jul 9, 2024 | 6 min read
notice of violation in an HOA
  

Purchasing a home in an HOA community also means agreeing to follow all of the association’s rules. However, many homeowners still find themselves shocked when they receive a violation. The reality is that even if you read your community’s governing documents, it can be easy to accidentally do something that goes against the rules. So, what are these common missteps and how can you keep them from turning into violations? Keep reading to learn about 9 of the most common HOA violations and how you can avoid them.

What is an HOA Violation?

An HOA violation occurs when a homeowner fails to comply with the rules set by their HOA. Every HOA has governing documents, such as CC&Rs, Bylaws, and Articles of Incorporation, which outline these rules. Violations can range from neglecting property upkeep to improper parking. Upon violating these rules, the homeowner receives a notice from the HOA board, detailing the violation, corrective measures needed, potential penalties, and a deadline for resolution, ensuring community standards are upheld.

What Happens if You Violate HOA Rules

After an HOA violation is identified, the homeowner is notified and given a chance to correct the issue within a certain timeframe. If the violation is not resolved, it can lead to penalties like fines or legal action, depending on the association’s governing documents. This enforcement process ensures that community rules are taken seriously and that all residents contribute to the neighborhood's overall well-being.

HOA Violations and How to Avoid Them

Avoiding violations is essential for maintaining a positive relationship with your neighbors and the community as a whole. Here are the most common HOA violations along with some tips on how to avoid them:

Landscaping

Problems associated with landscaping, including unkempt exteriors and overgrown lawns, are common in every community. You can avoid landscaping violations by following the set rules, such as maintaining well-kept and clean lawns and ensuring the fence trees are within the required height, such as 5 feet maximum. In addition, use drip irrigation and controlled sprinklers on lawns and along sidewalks.

Vehicles

Some residents may decide to bring in all types of RVs, commercial vehicles, and boats, leading to crowded driveways and streets. Residents must follow established area speed restrictions, parking rules in defined zones, and the types of vessels permitted to park on the land and along the streets.

Pets

Pets can often be a common source of violations due to issues such as noise disturbances, waste management, and leash regulations. To avoid these violations, residents should carefully review and adhere to the pet-related rules and regulations outlined by their association. This typically includes requirements for keeping pets on leashes in common areas, properly disposing of pet waste, and maintaining control over their pets to prevent excessive noise or disturbances to neighbors. 

In addition, homeowners should ensure that their pets are registered and comply with any breed or size restrictions imposed by the board. Regularly training and socializing pets can also help mitigate potential issues and ensure they are well-behaved members of the community.

Noise

Noise is a very common issue, especially in communities where residents are sharing walls. As a result, many associations implement quiet hours between night and early morning hours. To prevent issues concerning noise, residents should be mindful of their activities and how noises can impact neighbors. If possible, soundproofing walls and/or floors is also another great way to ensure that noise doesn’t travel as easily. 

Undisclosed Rentals

It is common to see some community members rent out or sublet their homes against the association’s rules. This not only jeopardizes the community's security, but it can also affect insurances that depend on the number of owners rather than renters. Prior to renting their home, owners must ensure that they have approval from the board. 

Smoking

Smoking can be especially problemating in condo and or townhome communities as the smoke can travel between units. Residents should be mindful and avoid smoking in common areas. Some people may also want to consider smokeless alternatives. 

Holiday or Seasonal Décor

Decorations are commonplace during the holiday season, and some residents may want to keep their decorations up for weeks –even months– after the special day has passed. To prevent violations, it’s important for residents to familiarize themselves with their community’s guidelines for holiday decor.  Adhering to these rules ensures compliance and helps maintain the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

Garbage/Trash

Dumping old furniture on the property, not bringing out garbage on time, and even failing to put trash on designated spots is also one of the most common HOA violations. Like in many other violations, the best approach to curb this particular problem is for the board to establish rules on how community members should handle garbage and trash. In turn, residents have to be considerate and uphold the community’s standards for cleanliness.

Design Changes

To maintain uniformity in the community, residents are expected to establish guidelines covering the design and structure of units in the community. In case the board approves of any changes, the changes must adhere to the rules put in place by the architectural review/control committee. Residents must also remember not to make any design changes to their property without receiving the proper approval. 

Tips for Dealing with Homeowner Complaints

Since most master planned communities result in people living fairly close to one another, complaints are bound to happen. For board member, it’s important to know how to address and resolve these complaints. Below we’ve put together some helpful tips on how board members can deal with complaints from homeowners.

Ask that complaints be in writing

Written complaints provide a clear record of the issue, including specific details and timelines, which helps ensure accurate documentation and accountability throughout the resolution process. When complaints are documented in writing, the board can assess the severity and urgency of the issue objectively, allowing for a more informed and timely response. 

Plus, having complaints in writing helps mitigate misunderstandings or misinterpretations of verbal communications, reducing the potential for disputes or conflicts between homeowners and the board. Lastly, written complaints demonstrate a formal commitment from homeowners, indicating their seriousness about the issue and their willingness to engage constructively in finding a resolution.

Consider informal collection

If your community doesn’t have an HOA management company, the board can address complaints informally. There are multiple ways to do it; for instance, some associations hold town hall community meetings, others prefer to set up suggestion boxes, and others provide an email where residents can send their complaints. 

Associations can also designate the responsibility of dealing with complaints to a group of board members. Again, choose an approach that accommodates the schedule of board members and one that suits your community well.

se your HOA management company

One of the benefits of hiring an HOA management company is that its employees can assist with things like handling complaints from homeowners and dealing with violations. Community association managers (CAMs) are trained in conflict resolution and handling disputes and are therefore best placed to deal with complaints about HOA violations. In addition, some complaints are easily verifiable and do not require the manager to develop a process. 

However, if they are difficult to verify, the management company can set up a process and explain how it works. This ensures they understand how the board plans to sort out the issue to develop a definitive solution.   

Know when a complaint requires board action

In situations where there isn't enough information to promptly resolve a complaint, the board should get involved for further assessment. Ideally, this should occur within a reasonable timeframe, typically within 90 days, although the urgency of the matter may warrant expedited handling. During this process, proactive communication with all involved parties is crucial. Engaging with homeowners can provide valuable insights and additional details that may assist in resolving the issue amicably. 

In addition, if deemed necessary, the complainant should be given the opportunity to present their case directly to the board. This ensures transparency, fairness, and allows the board to make informed decisions based on all available information.

Avoid giving the manager too much authority

While CAMs are expected to be familiar with the association's rules as part of their job, their primary focus may lie more on operational aspects rather than the nuanced interpretation and application of these rules in complex situations. Granting too much authority without proper oversight can potentially lead to inconsistencies or misinterpretations of HOA regulations, jeopardizing the integrity of decision-making processes and undermining homeowner trust.

>Navigating HOA Violations with Confidence

For residents, navigating the rules and regulations set forth by the HOA can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope, but with awareness and proactive measures, homeowners can avoid the most common violations. By familiarizing themselves with the rules, staying informed about updates and announcements, and communicating openly with neighbors and board members, homeowners can steer clear of potential violations and contribute to the overall well-being of their community.

On the other hand, board members must also be diligent in addressing complaints and looking into potential violations, ensuring that issues are addressed appropriately.

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