Homeowners associations have strict rules that govern the community and keep order. And where there are rules, there are violators. But, what happens if your association starts seeing HOA repeat violations?
What Are HOA Repeat Violations?
Anyone who has any experience with homeowners associations would know how they work. These associations maintain beauty and order within the community by enforcing rules and regulations for residents to follow. Common examples of these rules include parking restrictions, noise rules, pet restrictions, and architectural restrictions. While some may find them too controlling, these rules exist for a reason — to maintain curb appeal and protect property values.
Not everyone is perfect, though. Whether intentionally or otherwise, residents can and will break the rules. When this happens, they are subject to certain penalties, as defined within the community’s documents.
Sometimes, residents will commit the same breaches. These are called HOA repeat violations. It happens when the same resident breaks the same rule more than once. For instance, if an owner smokes in a non-smoking area, the HOA board can hold a hearing and issue a fine. When it happens again a few weeks later, the owner will have to go through another hearing and pay another fine. This is a repeat violation.
HOA Repeat Violations vs Continuing Violations
It is important to note that HOA repeat violations are different from continuing violations. Continuing violations are ones that persist and require cures. For instance, an association may prohibit owners from painting their houses blue. If an owner goes against this, the HOA board can impose a daily fine until the owner corrects the violation.
Imposing a daily fine is a good way to deal with continuing HOA violations, that is if your governing documents allow it. But, keep in mind that your goal here is to deter violations, not to earn money from fines. As such, it is good practice for your board to offer to waive the fine if the offender cures the violation within a set time period.
Discouraging and Penalizing HOA Repeat Offenders
Homeowners associations should work to prevent violations and punish offenders to discourage them from doing it again. This is not always easy, though, especially when you have limited options.
Make sure to check your state laws and governing documents to see what you can specifically do about violations in your community. It also helps to talk to an attorney with experience in dealing with HOAs.
Additionally, your board should make the rules clear to all residents. Educate them regularly with the help of newsletters and email blasts. You should also update everyone anytime there is a rule change. Consider maintaining an HOA website that owners can easily access.
While no two associations are exactly alike, the most common enforcement strategies include the following:
Some state laws and governing documents may require associations to issue a warning to the offender first. Sometimes, residents just aren’t aware that they have already broken a rule or only did it because they had no other choice. Allow offenders to correct their offense and make sure to listen to their side by scheduling a hearing. From there, your board can decide what action to take next.
Levying a monetary fine is one of the most widely used punishments for breaking HOA rules. The idea of having to pay the association money is sometimes enough to deter residents from committing violations. Depending on what your documents say, boards charge anywhere from $25 to $100 — with the amount reliant on the severity of the breach.
Some owners don’t care if they have to pay a fine when they break a rule. There are even those who intentionally violate rules because they know they can afford it. As an alternative to monetary penalties, associations may revoke the owner’s privileges. That means, for a set period of time after the violation or until the owner cures it, the HOA can restrict the member’s access to amenities and even suspend voting rights (in some cases).
4. Liens and Foreclosures
For some associations, it is possible to place a lien on an owner’s property if they refuse to pay their dues or fines. The HOA can subsequently foreclose on the lien in an attempt to collect the debt. This method requires the help of an attorney, though, and it can be rather harsh. As such, boards should carefully consider the decision before acting on it.
Adopting an Escalating Fine System for HOA Repeat Violations
If you find that your current fine system is not doing its job very well, you should consider using an escalating fine system. With such a system, your board can charge increasing fines for every succeeding violation of the same rule.
For example, if an owner breaks a rule, your board can impose a $25 to $50 fine after a successful hearing. When the same owner commits the same violation again, increase the fine to $50 to $100. For the third offense, you can charge up to $300.
Here’s a better way to illustrate an escalating fine system:
- First Offense – $25 to $50
- Second Offense – $50 to $100
- Third Offense – Up to $300
Again, the amount should depend on the severity of the violation and what you are permitted to do. It would not be reasonable to charge someone $300 on the first offense simply because they let their dog off its leash outside.
Three Strikes and You’re Out
As a general rule, an HOA board should not allow members to commit the same offense more than three times.
While the association can certainly make more money by adopting an escalating fine system with no limit, you must remember that the purpose of fines is to discourage offenders. If the same owner keeps breaking the same rule anyway, then you should consider a different approach. When fines don’t work, it is time to take legal action and seek injunctive relief from the court.
The Board’s Job
HOA repeat violations are a normal part of any community association. The best thing your HOA board can do is to discourage repeat offenders by educating them, imposing escalating fines, and adopting other penalties. It is not always easy to discipline your own neighbors, which is why the job of HOA board members is typically fraught with challenges.
If your board needs help enforcing the rules and dealing with violations, consider hiring Cedar Management Group. Call us today at (877) 252-3327 or contact us online to get a free proposal.
- HOA Fine Policies: What’s Reasonable And Legal?
- Are HOA Pet Restrictions Allowed?
- HOA Selective Enforcement: Playing It Fair