About 1 in 5 Americans have selected residences with a governing homeowner association, also known as HOAs.
While HOAs offer many conveniences and maintain tidy appearances, homeowners can easily be unsatisfied with their governing neighbors. Some common problems homeowners face with their HOA boards are:
- The Board fails to notify their residents regarding meetings and assessments. Many homeowners pay significant dues or fees to their HOA and expect detailed financial reporting that shows where their money is being spent. The lack of communication can lead to residences feeling left out of the loop or missing out on important decision-making.
- Repairs and maintenance delays and failures.
- Inaction regarding neighbor nuisances.
- Failing to hold all residents to the same restrictions or rules.
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What Should I Do If I Have a Problem with My Homeowner Association?
The first thing to remember is to remain calm and approach any problem or concern with politeness and respect.
After all, the governing board is often your neighbor and one who volunteers to serve on the board. The following is a list of things you should know or comply with when handling a problem with your HOA:
- Know the HOA rules or bylaws. Be sure to follow the rules in filing a response or complaint.
- Respond to any allegation of a violation, including failing to pay your fees, in writing. Face-to-face meetings are helpful in working out a remedy to the problem but always follow up with a written understanding or response. Be sure to keep all writings in case you wind up in court later.
- Do not argue over the rules as they are usually legally binding within your state. If you are unsatisfied with a rule, work with your fellow residents in submitting a petition to change it with the board. Otherwise, follow it or move out.
- Understand the possible penalties including the cost of litigation in your area and the board’s attitude towards litigation. HOAs have the authority to levy fines and interest that in the worst of cases can lead to a lien or foreclosure on your property.
- It can also be costly to file a lawsuit against your HOA and the HOA will incur it’s own attorney’s fees which will eventually be paid through your and your neighbor’s HOA assessments. A lawsuit should be the last recourse and only if you have cause to believe your claim is legally valid.
- Never stop paying your HOA dues. Interest and fines can add up later and you will be held responsible for them. Even if the disagreement is about the assessment being too great, pay it anyway and if you are correct, you will be entitled to a refund.
When Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you are unable to settle a problem with your HOA, then a local real estate lawyer can help you understand how to navigate the process. From disputing your HOA's rules to finding what options you have under the current rules, your lawyer can help you find the best solution.
But, it's important that you followed the above steps. If you are not paying your dues or ignoring any citations/violations, then you are unlikely to succeed in your claim or argument. It's important to follow the above steps, so when you contact a lawyer they will be able to help you.