How Should An HOA Enforce Rules In Its Community?

white mountain
clean houses | hoa enforce rules

How can the HOA enforce rules? Rule enforcement can be a pain point for many associations. It’s often a source of tension and conflict between residents and board members. But it’s an indispensable part of managing a successful community. 

Are HOA Rules Enforceable?

Every homeowners association has a set of governing documents that dictate how the HOA is governed and what rules members must abide by. Each set of governing documents includes the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). They also include the bylaws and HOA rules and regulations.

Each resident receives a copy of the governing documents when they purchase their unit. They pledge to abide by the HOA’s governing documents the moment the sale is closed. Thus, when someone asks, “Are HOA bylaws enforceable? Are CC&Rs enforceable?” The answer is yes. This is true regardless of whether or not the resident has read the governing documents.

However, there are instances wherein the HOA rules are unenforceable. For example, the rule imposed may be in violation of state and federal laws like the Fair Housing Act. In addition, HOA rules must be reasonable. Depending on the provisions outlined in state law or the governing documents, some may also require a vote. 

Who Enforces HOA Rules?

Homeowners association rule enforcement is ultimately a responsibility of the HOA board. They have a fiduciary responsibility to the community and must abide by and enforce the rules fairly. The board cannot over or under-enforce rules, as both instances may have significant consequences for the HOA.

However, just because HOA covenant enforcement is the board’s responsibility does not mean they must shoulder it alone. Homeowners associations may outsource enforcement duties to reputable HOA management companies. This allows the board to ensure no rules are overlooked, and that all enforcement procedures are properly followed.

Can Police Enforce HOA Rules?

Yes, police officers can enforce a few of the HOA’s rules. But, they often only enforce rules related to legal issues. For example, they may enforce laws on pet leashes and local noise ordinances. On the other hand, police officers would not enforce rules related to architectural guidelines like fences and landscaping.

How Should an HOA Enforce Rules?

The HOA board should enforce rules with careful consideration. Here are some guidelines on how to enforce HOA bylaws, CC&Rs, and regulations.

1. Send a Violation Warning

The first course of action HOAs should take is to send a written violation warning. This allows homeowners who make honest mistakes to correct themselves without feeling suffocated by harsh punishments. It’s also usually enough to keep residents compliant without escalating the issue. 

2. Impose Fines

Some violators may commit second offenses or simply outright refuse to obey the rules. In this case, the HOA can impose monetary fines to enforce compliance. This often discourages violators from committing the same mistake. It’s also a good way to deter other homeowners from following in their footsteps.

So, how can HOA enforce fines on community members? Aren’t fines against the law? Not quite. Fines are generally not against the law. However, some states regulate how HOAs can impose fines when fines are permissible, and what notice requirements there are—moreover, some set limits to how high the fines can be. 

As a result, homeowners associations should carefully follow due process before they impose penalties. Board members should review state laws and the governing documents to ensure they aren’t breaking any rules. 

3. Suspending Rights, Access, and Other Privileges

If the governing documents allow it, the association may suspend the homeowner’s rights, privileges, and access to certain facilities. This allows them to pressure the homeowner to comply with the rules. 

A few examples of this include suspending the member’s right to vote. Some may restrict members’ access to amenities like pools, clubhouses, or exercise rooms. HOAs that include utilities in the assessments may also opt to shut off the member’s utilities. However, they must review state law as some states restrict certain enforcement methods. 

4. Take Legal Action

desk of a lawyer | hoa enforce rules

How can the HOA enforce rules when the homeowner still refuses to comply? When all of the other options have failed, the HOA may take legal action as a last resort. Some states may require HOAs to use arbitration or mediation first, but others allow them to take legal action right away.

HOAs may do this by filing an enforcement action against the homeowner. Many states also allow HOAs to file claims if the resident does not pay the due fines. Sometimes, the HOA may also place a lien on the homeowner’s property and foreclose the home. 

5. Create and Follow a Standard Protocol

Apart from the abovementioned methods, the HOA should also create a standard protocol for enforcing rules. This streamlines the process and lets everyone know what to expect from violations. 

The governing documents often outline the procedures required of the homeowners association. If these guidelines are absent, HOAs may consider adopting a standard procedure to keep things organized. However, they must consult an attorney beforehand to ensure state and federal laws compliance. 

What Happens When HOA Rules Are Not Enforced?

It’s not unusual to find an HOA not enforcing CC&Rs, bylaws, and rules. Some board members may even go against the rules or enforce them selectively. This can leave the community in disarray and encourage the rest of the members to break the rules. It may eventually cause property values to plummet if the community is unruly or disorganized. 

However, the board has a fiduciary duty to the community. They must comply with and enforce the community’s rules. Otherwise, homeowners may eventually remove the problem board members who do not enforce the rules. They may also have the right to take legal action against the association.

Navigating the Complexities of HOA Rule Enforcement

How can an HOA enforce rules? Learning the basics of rule enforcement is only the beginning. Board members must also have the interpersonal skills to keep communities healthy and stable. Navigating and dealing with these complexities is integral to the HOA’s well-being. 

HOAs don’t have to act alone when enforcing the rules. Management companies, like Landmark Community Management, provide high-quality rule enforcement services that ensure complete and unbiased enforcement. Call us today at 512-569-5527 or contact us online for a proposal!