One of the responsibilities of a Homeowners Association (HOA) Board is to enforce the rules and regulations within the community. When a homeowner violates a rule, one of an HOAs recourses is to issue a fine. While homeowners know that fines are a consequence of broken rules, they are usually dismayed and angry to get a notice and a fine.
Today, we’re talking about how you can issue fines to members of your community without escalating the situation or causing relationships to sour. If you remain professional and document the violation that you are seeking to cure, issuing fines doesn’t have to be completely unpleasant.
Document all Fines and Violations
Homeowners need to understand the expectations of the community. Make sure there is plenty of documentation that supports the HOA’s authority to issue fines when there are rule violations. Post the rules and the corresponding consequences for breaking the rules in public places, like the association’s website, the clubhouse or management office, and in published handbooks. This will prevent misunderstandings and claims that your homeowners “didn’t know” that something wasn’t allowed.
When you issue the fine, make sure that process is documented as well. Keep a copy of the letter or notice you send, and create a calendar that tracks when the notice was issued and when the payment of the fine is due. If the process is systematic and consistent, you won’t have to worry about uncomfortable follow-ups.
Keep it Peaceful and Private
Everyone in the community has to live together, so there’s no need to publicly humiliate neighbors who have been fined for a violation. Instead of posting a wall of shame or calling out homeowners who are in trouble during Board meetings and public correspondence, keep this between the HOA and the specific homeowner. You need to remain professional, and your residents have a right to privacy.
Don’t allow huge, dramatic public escalations. If someone shows up to a Board meeting raging against a notice or a fine that was received, hear what he or she has to say. Respond respectfully and professionally, and set up a private meeting with that resident after the business of the Board has been completed.
Follow Your Process Confidently
You have the authority to enforce the rules and collect fines, so be confident when you issue a fine to the homeowner, no matter how bad you may feel personally. No one likes to be told their grass is too high, or their trash is in the wrong place, or they’re parking in places that are not permitted. But, you have these rules for a reason. Everyone agrees to them when they purchase a home in the community.
If a fine isn’t paid in the required amount of time, take the next steps. There might be other consequences and there might be legal action. Don’t be confrontational. There’s no need to bang on the door of the offending homeowner to demand payment. You have a process in place (or, you should!). Follow it, and trust it.
When an owner complies, the Board should consider waiving fines. Any legal or other costs of enforcement will typically be expected because had the owner complied earlier in the process these costs would not have been needed.
We are happy to help your association Board with any issues you may be facing, whether it’s enforcing rules or issuing fines, or communicating with your residents. Contact us at Community Property Management, and we’ll answer any questions you have.