If you live in a home governed by a homeowners association (HOA) it can be a great place to live. There may be amenities that are enjoyed by your family and the property values can remain high due to HOA rule enforcement to protect everyone's interest. Unfortunately, those who oversee some HOAs can put their own interest over the good of the neighborhood.
Homeowners associations have a lot of power to wield, and they get this power from seemingly iron-clad contracts with the homeowners. What makes the situation challenging is the ability of the association to change the rules, sometimes drastically, after you have purchased your home. In many instances, HOAs have the power to file a lien against a property, foreclose on a home and even sue a homeowner.
The property developer usually sets up the HOA and its initial rules, but residents later have the power to join the HOA board and either enforce or modify the rules, depending on the guidelines set forth in the community bylaws. Most likely, the HOA rules are set forth in a document referred to as the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs).
Sometimes HOA rules are simple and straightforward, and the board members use their power sparingly. Other times, they can be quite heavy-handed in the HOA rule enforcement. We see it in many organizations when people are put in charge without management training. Some individuals put on an HOA board allow the power to go to their heads. When that happens, there is going to be conflict.
As a homeowner, it's easy to get emotional when it comes to your home when you've spent years of saving up for a down payment and many other expenses that come with homeownership. It's your castle. It's your sanctuary. However, when you and the HOA don't see eye to eye, the situation can quickly turn into a nightmare, causing anxiety and sleepless nights.
Although some HOA members want to believe they are always right, it simply isn't the case. Some push their authority too far by enforcing the rules inconsistently or unfairly. Some may interpret the HOA agreements incorrectly, which can infringe upon your homeowner's rights. Board members should always exercise reasonable diligence in carrying out the responsibilities of the HOA. Normally, board members are informed and knowledgeable about the governing documents and participate in required HOA meetings, but this isn't always the case.
Homeowners should expect a certain quality of treatment from their HOA. These expectations are based on rights established in the law or on basic standards of decency and respect. If you believe you have a valid dispute with your HOA, consult with me first. I’ll review your grievance and offer practical advice on the best way to proceed. In most cases, I can reach a favorable resolution without taking legal action against the HOA.