Top 3 Common Issues Homeowners Have with Their HOA

While homeowners association are established to benefit both the homeowners and the community, there are things that HOAs do that homeowners don’t agree with and vise-versa. When an HOA determines that a homeowner’s actions have violated certain stipulations in their CC&Rs, bylaws or other rules and regulations, the HOA immediately calls the attention of the homeowner. Often, there is a corresponding fine or penalty. But what about the homeowners? What can they do if they have an issue with their HOA?

First, here are some of the issues homeowners commonly complain about their HOA:

1. Increasing membership fees/dues

The HOA subsists on membership dues and other fees they may collect from the homeowners from time to time. As such, they may choose to increase HOA dues at any given time, as long as it is implemented in accordance with the HOA’s bylaws. There are times, however, when an HOA increases membership dues or charges additional fees to cover repairs (which they can actually do) without warning.

If these are within the HOA’s bylaws and deeds, there’s not much a homeowner can do except comply. However, if the majority of the homeowners agree that these are additional financial burdens they cannot shoulder, they can collectively appeal to the HOA.

2. Selective Enforcement

After fees, selective enforcement is the second most common issue homeowners have with their HOA. In a nutshell, selective enforcement means the HOA isn’t fair in its enforcement of the terms covered in the CC&Rs or bylaws and deeds. To put it another way, the HOA is playing favorites; choosing who should strictly follow the regulations and for whom they can bend the rules.

A homeowner may call the attention of the HOA board to this observation in writing first, and then a scheduled discussion after. The homeowner must have solid proof to back their claim/s, so the HOA board can take the necessary action.

3. Harassing with fines

Sometimes, HOAs charge a fine for something as unreasonable as the car parked too closely to the curb or a trampoline with an unsightly color. If the homeowner refuses to pay, they can expect to be bombarded with reminders in the mail and messages in their machine. If your HOA is harassing you to pay a fine for what you believe is an unreasonable demand, check the bylaws to see if it is within the HOA’s legal rights.

But whether or not the demand is unreasonable, the HOA should never harass the homeowner for payment. You may seek the advice of a lawyer if the harassment continues after you’ve called their attention to it.

5 Benefits of Becoming an HOA Board Member

If you’re already part of a homeowners association (HOA), it’s a good idea to attend board meetings and participate in events on a regular basis. These are essential steps you can take to become an HOA board member—a position that’ll allow you to serve your community while enhancing your own experience as a homeowner.

Here are 5 benefits of becoming an HOA board member.

1. You’ll meet new people

Joining the board will provide many opportunities to interact with your neighbors, which is helpful if you want to meet new people. Physical proximity and working together are conducive to the development of friendships, so if you want to feel like you’re truly part of the community, start attending meetings and events.

2. You can improve existing rules or make new ones

As an HOA board member, you have the power to update policies and create new ones in response to issues that have yet to be properly addressed. For instance, if there’s no rule enforcing pet owners to clean up after their dogs, you can implement such a rule to keep your community clean and safe from hazardous waste. Simply attending meetings and voicing your opinions can also help bring about necessary changes in the neighborhood.

3. You can plan social events and activities

If you feel your community can do with a bit more fun, you can plan social gatherings and activities that’ll let fellow homeowners unwind, socialize, and enjoy themselves. Parties, sports competitions, dances, movie nights, reading clubs, and more can make living in an HOA that much more rewarding. They can even strengthen the sense of belonging, which can encourage people to take better care of their community.

4. You can preserve property values

The HOA board usually monitors the upkeep and maintenance of houses, facilities, and miscellaneous amenities in the community. As a board member, you can, for example, expect to help oversee the repair of individual homes or recreational areas such as gyms and basketball courts. Taking care of such properties can go a long way in protecting or even raising their value.

5. You gain useful skills

By collaborating with others to plan events, you’ll develop a gamut of skills that’ll prove useful to you throughout life and look great on your resume. For instance, the aforementioned planning of events can exercise your administrative and communication skills. You’ll hone your ability to think critically and develop effective problem-solving strategies.

These are but some of the benefits of joining an HOA board. If you’d like to know more about HOAs and HOA boards, please contact us through our corporate website, or give us a call at (888) 828-9444.

4 Common HOA Pet Policies You Should Know if You Own Dogs

As many people consider pets family, most homeowners associations (HOAs) today welcome our furry friends into their communities. Whether you’re already part of a community and are considering getting a dog, or are looking for a dog-friendly community to call your home, know that HOAs usually have rules regarding the keeping of domestic animals.

Below, we list down some of the common dog policies an HOA may implement in their community.

1. Pet registration

Many HOAs require people to register their pets before joining the community as official homeowners. Homeowners must also submit registration prior to acquiring a pet. This allows HOAs to enforce their pet-related policies, in turn making it easier for them to keep both residents and their pets safe. For example, through registration information, an HOA will know when it’s time for a dog to get vaccinated, thereby preventing the spread of dangerous diseases such as rabies.

2. Noise complaints

Dog barking and howling can be sources of great irritation especially if they’re constant, and/or if they happen late at night or early in the morning. Some HOAs encourage homeowners to report such disturbances to the board so that its members may be able to find the solution most amenable to both pet owner and complainant. For instance, the dog may be required to undergo obedience training or be let inside the house at night.

3. Pet leashing

Certain dog breeds are extremely energetic and require regular walks to be happy and healthy. While many HOAs allow this practice, they also require pets to be leashed at all times during the walk. This is to prevent injury to homeowners and their pets, as even a non-aggressive animal may be triggered to attack. Such rules also protect your pet, as an unleashed dog may run away then get hit by a car or fail to find its way back home.

4. Waste cleanup

Dogs often use walks as an opportunity to defecate. Many HOAs require pet owners to pick up this poop and dispose of it in the nearest garbage can. This keeps the community clean, beautiful, and safe from disease spread through waste.

These are just some of the pet policies you can expect an HOA to enforce. Make sure you familiarize yourself with such rules before becoming a homeowner or acquiring a dog.

If you’d like to know more about HOAs and HOA rules, kindly contact us through our corporate website, or give us a call at (888) 828-9444.

Top 4 Things to Do If a Neighbor Complains About You

One of the best things about living in an HOA-managed community is that you have a state-regulated legal entity to keep you and your family safe, and ensure that peace is upheld amongst neighbors. You also have a legally-bound, neutral entity to turn to for disputes and complaints between neighbors.

What can you do if your neighbor filed a complaint against you?

If you were contacted by your HOA because of a complaint filed against you by your next-door neighbor, don’t fret. And try not to get angry either. Know that a complaint doesn’t immediately mean you’re guilty of whatever your neighbor is accusing of or that you will be immediately evicted from the community. Here’s what you can do if your HOA notifies you about the complaint:

1. Stay calm and composed

Once you receive word from your homeowners association about the complaint, stay calm and keep your composure. Your neighbor will probably be waiting for your knee-jerk reaction (which they could use to further fuel their complaint saying your anger is but one more proof of your guilt), so don’t give them the satisfaction of being right.

2. Review details of the complaint

The complaint should clearly state the specific issue down to the last detail (date, time, parties involved, witnesses, etc.). Back-track and review events as you remember them. It’s important here to be as clear about your recollection as possible. Write down specific details that you remember from the incident as you might be able to use these on your dispute.

3. Know your legal rights

Do your own research about your legal rights as a member of the community. Review the HOA’s CC&Rs. Research on state regulations regarding the specific issues raised by your neighbor, if applicable. To make sure too that you won’t be violating any laws or stipulations from the HOA’s by-laws and CC&Rs, consult a lawyer. If you only need general advice, there are sites online that offer free legal counsel and consultation. Check them out to see if they can help you with your specific concern/s.

4. Attend the HOA-mandated hearing of your case

The HOA will be doing its own investigation about the complaint and if they find that the complaint has merit, they will schedule a hearing, which is basically the board inviting you and the complainant to a meeting to hear both your sides. It’s important to attend every hearing because your absence could be construed as disrespect for the board and the HOA (which could be a point against you).

Filing a complaint against your HOA? Here’s what you need to do first

Filing a complaint against an HOA is not something new. In fact, it’s fairly common. However, as common as it is, you should know that complaining against a homeowners association isn’t as simple as storming the HOA office to voice out your issues. There are steps you need to take first for your own protection. Simply put, you need to make sure you are proceeding within legal boundaries to prevent a lawsuit.

If you are considering filing a complaint against your HOA, here are the initial steps you need to take:

1. Clearly identify your concerns and issues

What issues do you wish to take up with your HOA? You have to be clear about them. Remember that you are complaining against your association, which means you’re complaining against an entity that was legally put in place to oversee your community. There are laws governing its role in the community, including the role of each member of the board. With that said, you need to be specific about your concerns. Clearly state each issue and have evidence to back it up.

2. Go over your HOA by-laws and CC&Rs

As mentioned above, there are laws governing the HOA, which include rules and regulations that homeowners must abide by as well as rules and mandates that state the role of the HOA Board and its specific members. Carefully go over these by-laws and CC&Rs to ensure that your issues and concerns against the HOA are indeed within their duties and responsibilities. For instance, if your issue is something that concerns a public amenity like a park or community pool, you have to check if the specific issue is indeed the responsibility of the HOA. Sometimes there are specific stipulations that prevent an HOA from taking action.

3. Are you complaining against the HOA or a board member?

Remember that the HOA is managed by its Board of Directors, with each one having a specific role in the organization. You have to determine whether you are complaining against the entire HOA or just a member of the board. How do you determine which is which? Again, you have to go back to the CC&Rs and by-laws. If your complaints are directly related to the general responsibility of the HOA, then you could probably file a complaint against the association.

On the other hand, if your issue is the specific responsibility of one particular board member, then your issue is probably best taken up with the board member in question.

As you can see, filing a complaint against an HOA takes time and effort; but if you truly believe your concerns are legitimate and must be acted upon immediately for the safety of your HOA-managed community, then there’s no reason for you not to pursue it.

How do HOAs handle disputes between neighbors? Here are the initial steps…

Homeowners associations have a set of rules that every household-member must strictly follow. Failure to do so could result in penalties or in worst-case scenarios, expulsion from the community, which means you could be evicted from your house. In general, the HOA is legally allowed to make such a decision. A homeowner could be evicted if it has been proven that they have put (or are putting) the safety of the community or a neighbor at risk. Disagreements between neighbors are one of the most common causes of a situation getting out of hand, thus endangering the safety of another.

How do HOAs handle disputes between neighbors? Here are the initial steps they take to prevent the situation from escalating:

1. Request for a formal complaint in writing

Here’s the thing, the HOA cannot immediately intervene in a dispute between neighbors. Everything must be handled professionally, which means the HOA will have to request for a formal complaint from one of the parties involved. If the complaint was made verbally, a formal written complaint will still be requested by the HOA. This is so everything is on record, for safety and legal purposes, among others.

Understand that the HOA may choose not to intervene in a dispute related to personal matters like dating and relationships, whether romantic or family related. They can only intervene if the situation has put others in danger (including one of the parties involved).

2. An HOA Board member will be assigned to investigate

For homeowners associations that have an HOA management company helping them out, the HOA manager will be the one to do the investigating. If there is no HOA manager, the HOA Board will assign one of their Board members to the case to investigate.

3. Investigation

The HOA, through their HOA manager or Board member, will look into the situation to find out all the facts. Understanding that the dispute could very well end up in a lawsuit, they will be thorough about the entire process, making sure not to leave out or overlook important details. Those involved should expect to be interviewed.

4. Intervention

Based on all evidence and information gathered from the investigation, the HOA will then decide whether or not the situation is something they could or should intervene with. This decision will be made by all HOA Board members. Having a lawyer present during discussions on whether or not to intervene will be helpful since they can provide a legal insight or give their legal advise.

These are but the initial steps to how an HOA handles disputes between neighbors. For HOA disputes between the association and a homeowner, the process starts with
Internal Dispute Resolution.

4 Ways HOAs Benefit Homeowners

Whether you are moving into a residential property you recently bought or have started renting, chances are you’re moving into an HOA-managed community. Nowadays, you’ll hardly find a residential property that doesn’t belong to an HOA. For those who have never lived in such a community before, the top-of-mind question usually is “Do I really need a homeowners association?” Find out below why an HOA-managed community is the best place for you and your family:

1. You have “instant” support and assistance

Moving into a new neighborhood usually means you have no one to run to for support or assistance during the first few months or even first year in your new home. When you belong to a homeowners association, you’ll immediately have access to the support and assistance they provide to all their members. You’ll have peace of mind knowing you’ll have someone to run to in case of emergency.

2. You will feel safer at night

In relation to the above, knowing that you’re moving into a community that’s kept safe and secure by the HOA 24 hours a day, seven days a week translates to sleeping soundly at night. This is especially true if you have young kids sleeping in the next room. You know they are safe inside your house and within the premises of the community.

3. Property value is maintained

When you live within an HOA community, there are certain rules and regulations you must follow for several reasons, one of which is to maintain property value. Since a real estate property is an investment, it will be prudent on your part to take the necessary steps to ensure that its market value will not depreciate, and instead, even appreciate. This makes for a good investment should you decide to sell in the future. Even if you don’t plan to sell, it’s best to keep this in mind when looking for a new house to move into.

Studies reveal that an HOA can significantly increase property value, more than five or six percent from those that don’t belong to an HOA community.

4. Access to amenities

From private parks to pools, gyms or fitness centers, function halls, and more, HOA communities provide certain amenities to their homeowners. These are private amenities that can only be accessed by the homeowners and their families, and since these are maintained by HOAs, you’ll know they’re safe, clean, and of course, functional.

There are several other benefits to moving into an HOA-managed community. Do your research on the HOA regulating your property so you’ll know whether or not it is ideal for you.

3 Things HOAs are Doing to Help Financially Struggling Residents

HOAs are generally strict about the collection of fees and dues. In fact, by-laws and CC&Rs
include a stipulation that clearly defines penalties and consequences for late and delinquent homeowners. In a worst-case scenario, a homeowner may be evicted for being a delinquent payer. Homeowners associations may send several reminders first and may even conduct an interview with the homeowner to find out if their financial situation has changed. Eviction is always the last course of action.

But this time around, being a delinquent payer may not be the homeowner’s fault given that the world was plunged into a financial crisis when COVID-19 caused businesses to file for bankruptcy and/or close shop for good. People lost incomes and depleted their savings, which means not only are they unable to pay bills and association dues, they are also having a difficult time providing for their families.

What are HOAs doing to help their residents in this time of global crisis? Here are a few steps they’ve taken to help ease the burden of their financially strapped residents:

1. Relief from dues for a specific period

At the height of the pandemic, a lot of homeowners associations across the country stopped collecting membership dues as their residents struggled to cope with financial losses caused by the pandemic. This meant HOAs had to dip into their emergency funds for important expenses. This also meant minimizing HOA expenses to the bare essentials only.

Some HOAs stopped collecting membership dues for three consecutive months; others longer.

2. Reduced membership dues and other fees

To help residents pay their dues and fees, some HOAs reduced these by a considerable amount. Some HOAs also scrapped other fees; keeping only membership dues until such time when economies and finances become stable again.

3. Flexible due date

Before the pandemic, HOAs were strict about due dates but they have been flexible and lenient about this since the start of the pandemic. Members are given a longer payment period for their dues. If they are still unable to make payment on the “absolute deadline,” HOAs discuss payment options with their residents to help them make payments without adding to their financial burden.

While these changes in fees and dues negatively affected the HOAs operations and emergency funds, HOAs deemed it more important to take care of their residents first because being homeowner-members themselves, they too have been impacted by the pandemic, which means they may be going through the same difficulties as their neighbors.

3 Points to Consider for HOA Emergency and Disaster Preparedness

COVID-19 has changed the way we live in ways no one ever imagined. To say that the disease took the world by surprise would be an understatement. No one saw it coming. Everyone scrambled to keep up with the sudden changes it brought upon the world. Homeowners associations, for one, had to implement immediate changes to keep their respective communities safe from the threat of the novel coronavirus.

In general, every homeowners association across the nation has an emergency and disaster preparedness plan already in place but when COVID-19 hit, no one was prepared for it because no one saw and understood the scope of damage it could do. HOAs knew they had to make changes in order to keep their communities safe. Below are some of the points they considered to update their disaster and emergency preparedness plan amidst COVID-19:

1. Follow CDC and WHO recommendations

The first thing HOAs did was to follow the basic health and safety recommendations of the CDC and WHO. Every homeowner-member within their jurisdiction were asked to do the following: wear a mask when stepping outside, frequent hand-washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, limit trips outside the home (going out only when absolutely necessary), and practice physical distancing.

In addition to these, HOAs also implemented a “no-guest” policy where guests from outside the community aren’t allowed to visit except in emergency medical situations. Public amenities were also closed: swimming pools, gyms, and parks

2. At-risk residents are identified

At the onset of COVID-19, the WHO and CDC identified at-risk individuals as those who are aged 55 years old and above. In response to this, HOAs too identified vulnerable residents within their community and implemented additional regulations to keep them safe. These additional recommendations generally included fully restricting trips outside, which means they will rely on their household members or caregivers to procure supplies and other necessities for them. Medical appointments may also be restricted to at-home visits by their healthcare practitioner.

3. Evacuation

In the event of a disaster or emergency where residents need to be evacuated, HOAs must develop an evacuation plan that will still keep the residents safe from COVID-19. That means evacuation plans need to still strictly follow health and safety protocols recommended by the CDC. The biggest challenge is maintaining physical distancing during evacuation and after when residents are already gathered at the designated evacuation center/location.

These are only a few changes and considerations HOAs made to keep their residents safe in this time of the pandemic. Emergency and disaster preparedness plans may be updated from time to time to keep up with the new changes brought on by the pandemic.

3 Key Changes in HOA Operations in the New Normal

One of the biggest changes that the pandemic has brought on everyone is physical distancing; that is, keeping yourself at a safe distance from everyone else. This means no close, physical contact with anyone outside of your household, which dramatically changed how businesses ran operations, and how goods and services are purchased and delivered. In the HOA landscape, this also meant limiting physical contact with the board and the community.

What changes did homeowners associations make in order to fulfill their duties? Here are some of them:

1. Virtual meetings

Much like everyone else, HOAs too had to learn to adapt to online platforms for their day-to-day tasks and needs. Virtual meetings are scheduled and subsequently held to discuss important HOA matters, especially those relating to the pandemic and how to keep the community safe. Quarterly meetings

that were once held inside the HOA office are now conducted online. Emergency meetings are also held online.

The challenge here is having a platform that allows all homeowners to attend the meetings as well if they do so wish. Some HOAs provide the option of audio participation to allow more members to join the meetings.

2. Settling disputes between neighbors

In the past, disputes between neighbors were resolved following a step-by-step protocol, which generally involves filing a complaint, sending a notice to the defendant-member, conducting separate interviews, interviewing witnesses (if applicable), and finally, conducting a hearing to hear both sides at the same time. The pandemic has changed all this. Complaints and notices are sent online, and interviews and hearings are conducted online as well. Disputes then could take longer to resolve during the pandemic.

3. Voting and elections

For issues that need votes from the board and/or household members, as well as elections of HOA board directors and members, ballots are sent to each household and picked up by the HOA representative or dropped off by the homeowner at a designated drop off area. In general, anything that needs to be voted anonymously will be done through house-to-house ballot-voting instead of the usual ballot-voting at the HOA office or community center.

Apart from house-to-house, mail-in ballots, some HOAs have also provided their community with an online portal for electronic voting.

While in-person or face-to-face meetings, elections, and such are now allowed, physical distancing regulations should still be strictly followed. HOAs must then ensure that personal attendance for public meetings or hearings will still be at a limited capacity.