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Enforcing your HOA’s bylaws

Few people really enjoy confrontation. Many of us do everything in our power to avoid it. But as a homeowner’s association board member, it is your responsibility to enforce the bylaws of the association, which means occasionally having to confront a resident who has violated them.

If you’ve never had to enforce your HOA’s bylaws with a resident before, you may be wondering where to start. Below are some tips for confronting the resident in a way that enforces the bylaws while mitigating resident anger.

1. Understand your powers

Before going to a resident with an issue, make sure you clearly understand what the HOA’s Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions and Easements (CC&Rs) give you the power to do. While it is your duty to enforce the bylaws, your power to do so is dependent on the governing documents of the HOA. Before speaking to a resident, know what you can and can’t do so you don’t end up making an idle threat.

2. Determine a course of action

Based on the HOA bylaws, you may or may not be required to take the violation to a board meeting first. Regardless, your first step is likely going to be sending written notice to the resident and allow them a reasonable amount of time to fix the violation. Decide how many written notices you and the board think are appropriate before sending the first notice and taking further action.

If written notices don’t work, it may be worth discussing the violation with the resident in person as a next step. It is possible they missed the written notices or didn’t understand why they were sent. Sit down and talk with them to explain the violation.

If you meet with a resident, be sure to take detailed notes about the meeting. If a resident tries to sue the HOA in the future, it will be helpful to have a record of the conversation. Having the rest of the board present keeps it from turning into a "he said, she said" situation. 

3. Assign appropriate penalties

If the violation continues to go unresolved, it is probably time to start looking at what penalties you have the power to impose. Most HOAs will impose a fine or a number of fines dependent upon how long the violation continues to exist.

Some HOAs have the ability to evict members in extreme cases. To do this, the board must file an eviction lawsuit. Know your HOA’s bylaws and consider other mediation tactics before taking this course of action. It is also possible that state law has changed and conflicts with the bylaws – even if the bylaws claim that you have the power to evict, they may outdate current Missouri law.

If the violation escalates to the penalty stage, it would be best to seek the counsel of an attorney who can advise the HOA in this matter, properly enforce the bylaws and help fight any possible countersuits.

4. Remain calm

Dealing with a violation can be stressful for board members, especially if a resident threatens to sue. However, the bylaws were created to keep the neighborhood safe and pleasant for all residents, and your enforcement of those bylaws help maintain that standard of living for everyone. Be patient, breathe and keep a cool head while handling violations. Most occurrences will hopefully be easy to resolve and everyone can go back to being happy neighbors.

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