One of the most important duties of HOA board members is to enforce HOA laws on residents and other board members. Bylaws and the rules, regulations, and covenants (CC&Rs) are in place to secure order in the community and protect residents.
Board members enforce the laws because “all owners agreed to abide by the rules when they bought into the community,” according to The Highnell Companies, a residential and commercial property management company in Chico, California. As a position of authority and leadership in the homeowners association, it’s the board’s duty to regularly remind all residents of this.
If someone doesn’t abide by or enforce HOA laws, his or she is subjecting the community to litigation risks, neighborhood distrust and discourse, and potential forced actions by state or federal jurisdictions.
What a homeowners association is able to do in terms of rule enforcement varies depending on the community and the states in which it’s located. The homeowners association’s powers are limited to the detailed language of the CC&Rs, bylaws, and state/federal laws.
CC&Rs and bylaws commonly include basic procedures that an HOA board must take prior to taking action against any resident. A few examples of common procedures include the following:
- A violation must be discussed at a legal board meeting between board members before any action can be taken
- A notice of the alleged violation must be sent to an owner
- A notice of the alleged violation must be sent a certain number of times or through a certain method to an owner
- A notice of the alleged violation must be sent to an owner with a required response of affirmation of said notice
- An owner receives an allotted time period (usually 30 to 90 days) to cure the violation before discussion at a meeting, fine submission, required mediation, or court appearances
- An owner is allowed an attempt at negotiation with HOA board members to alleviate the severity of rule enforcement
Extra Enforcement Abilities
Some neighborhoods give the HOA board more enforcement rights than others. Among these might be the right to do the following, according to Nolo, a publisher in that produces do-it-yourself legal books and software in Berkeley, California:
- Fine any owner violating a covenant, rule, or regulation
- Enter an owner’s property to determine whether the owner is breaking any rules
- Enter an owner’s property to remedy a rule violation
- Suspend the rule-breaking owner’s right to use common areas, including the community pool, fitness center, and other areas
- Suspend the rule-breaking owner’s right to attend community events or functions
- Suspend the rule-breaking owner’s right to receive community news via email, letter, or phone call
- Sue an owner who violates any restriction, covenant, or rule
- Hold an owner responsible for any attorney fees or costs incurred by the association in enforcing a rule
- Place a lien on an owner’s property until the rule is abided by or a decision is reached in legal court
Using State Legal Action
Because neighbor disputes and arguments over HOA rules are common, many states try to keep these smaller issues out of the court. Many courts suggest mediation proceedings prior to a lawsuit and request that all options in CC&Rs and bylaws be exhausted before taking legal action.
How are HOA rules enforced? It depends on the community CC&Rs and bylaws as well as state and federal laws. If you’re an HOA board member or homeowner in the state of Maryland, feel free to click the button below to download our updated comprehensive Guide To HOA Laws In Maryland For 2018: