The fine line of HOA complaints is ensuring the homeowners feel that their voice has been heard and finding a resolution that appeases all parties.
So, what should you do if an HOA complaint has been filed against you or another board member? Take IKO Community Management’s advice:
Ask that complaints be in writing. A written, formal HOA complaint letter serves as proof that both parties are aware of the issue. It identifies the homeowner(s) that can be contacted for conflict resolution and clearly outlines the problem with little room for error that can come with spoken communication.
Before your homeowners association implements this policy, check with your state’s open record law. Certain states, like Florida, offer an open record law, which means that a written, formal complaint is considered an official record. This could pose privacy issues for residents.
Use your community’s property or HOA manager. If your HOA community has a contracted property manager, use this point of contact as a way to funnel all formal complaints. The manager can break down and outline the complaint, resident contact information, and potential conflict resolutions in a neat packet for HOA board members to digest.
Some HOA communities choose to give their property manager more power in regards to community harmony, according to an article by HOA Leader.
“The manager can take the complaint at face value if [residents] have written it down, or you can request...some sort of process -- like a drive by the property -- to verify the complaint. If it can be verified, the manager can say...'By the way...this may be a violation of the governing documents.'"
If your community chooses to withhold this power, the property manager can send a default “thank you” and let the resident know that their complaint has been forwarded to the HOA board.
Know when to get involved. Because of your community’s limiting covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs), the board doesn’t always have to get involved. It helps to clear the grey area if the resident can internally solve the issue, doesn’t have enough information, or needs board authorization.
Otherwise, follow your community’s CC&Rs on how to handle an HOA complaint against the board. Typically, "The complaint should be addressed as an item on the agenda at a board meeting within a certain amount of time,” according to Lisa Magill, a shareholder and association attorney at Becker & Poliakoff PA in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to HOA Leader.
This could be 30, 60, or 90 days "or shorter depending on the nature of the complaint."
"In the meantime...talk to [both parties] to verify the information. The issue should be addressed by the board or committee, and the complainant should have the opportunity to come. The person handling the complaint can explain the complaint, what's been done to process it, and make a recommendation to the board."
Understand what qualifies as harassment. On occasions, residents feel that their complaint hasn’t been heard, or nothing has been done in regards to conflict resolution. Most residents politely ask the status of their complaint, and others harass.
If a resident begins knocking on board members’ doors, calling them at all hours, invading their privacy, or cornering them at meetings, it’s time to rein in that abusive behavior. Obtain a restraining order, or call an attorney “if the level of harassment or the imposition on a board member's privacy is sufficient,” according to Matthew Drewes, a partner at Thomsen & Nybeck P.A. in Edina, Minnesota, as said to HOA Leader.
For more information about community harmony and conflict resolution in your HOA neighborhood, click on the button below to download IKO Community Management’s white paper: