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How To Handle The Top 3 Most Common HOA Complaints

Posted by IKO Community Management on June 21, 2019 at 9:00 AM

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It’s important to remember that board members aren’t exempt from the community’s rules. Once a line is crossed, the board is likely to receive HOA complaints from residents regarding the issue.
IKO Community Management details the top three most common complaints and how to handle them:

Problem 1: A resident receives a $200 fine for leaving out their trash-can over the weekend. Another resident files a formal HOA complaint about the 50 percent increase in monthly HOA fees. Excessive fines, HOA fees, and assessments are the top complaints by residents in homeowners association-regulated communities.

Solution 1: As an HOA board member, you're responsible for financial management of the community. Look into your neighborhood’s governing documents and state law to determine where your rights lie within assigning reasonable HOA fees and penalties.

Before an association can fine, it must have the authority under its governing documents or the state law. Even when a right to fine exists, there are typically due process requirements that require proper notice and, in some instances, a right to a hearing.

Even when associations have the right to impose fines, the goal is to obtain the owner's compliance with the association's rules. Therefore, the boards approach should often include maintaining an open dialogue (typically through your community manager), with the non-compliant owner. This can encourage the owner to work to discuss the violation and seek out a resolution. Also, the board should be open to other conflict resolution ideas.

Problem 2: A resident steps up to vote and is told that they can’t. An HOA board member election is held and not every resident knows about it. The existing board clearly endorses one candidate over another.

Unfair HOA elections are the second most common complaint among residents nationwide.

Solution 2: If you receive complaints about unfair HOA elections, understand resident rights as outlined in your community’s governing documents. For example, according to Educational Community for Homeowners, California residents of homeowners associations receive the following rights:

  • Homeowners deserve a reasonable opportunity to vote in important elections or to appoint another to vote on their behalf (i.e. a proxy).
  • Homeowners deserve to be informed of their voting eligibility if they do not qualify to vote per the governing documents before a vote is held.
    • This right may not exist everywhere.

Many states have similar rights. Before an HOA election, notify every resident, and provide a reminder notice to residents who can’t vote due to outstanding fees or other unfavorable circumstances. A simple statement in the meeting mailer about the factors that can negate an owner’s ability to vote also goes a long way in preventing an issue at the meeting itself.

Also, ensure that your board is transparent. Correct inaccurate statements, but avoid giving opinions. Check out HOA Leader’s rules for appointing members to the board of directors for more information.

Problem 3: If a board member hurls insults at a resident or excessively contacts them about a minor matter, it's considered harassment. When a resident sends an HOA complaint about harassment, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Solution 3: Before associations come to a conflict resolution regarding harassment, they first need to define it. Like many legalities, it’s not a clear-cut definition due to gray areas like varying state legal language.

According to U.S. Legal Support, a court reporter in Washington, D.C., harassment is defined “as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety.”

It’s “unwanted, unwelcome, and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens, or offends the victim and results in a hostile environment for the victim.” This behavior “may include, but is not limited to, epithets, derogatory comments or slurs and lewd propositions, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons.”

However defined, harassment shouldn’t be tolerated. If you receive an email, phone call, or visit from a resident or other board member detailing harassment claims, get everything in writing. (A formal HOA complaint letter helps.)

In response, the Board should follow its standard procedures for addressing such
claims and treat the situation the same as any other reported violation, irrespective of
their position as a board member. Remind them that board members aren’t exempt of the rules or consequences.

If the notice doesn’t stop the harassment, take legal action according to your community’s governing documents.

For more information on how to reach conflict resolution and community harmony for these circumstances and others, click below to download IKO’s guide:

Download The HOA Guide to Conflict Resolution & Community Harmony

Topics: HOA Board