Sending an official violation letter is an unpleasant but necessary association task. HOA violations will occur at some point, whether homeowners forget the rules or purposefully violate them in the hopes that they won’t get caught. HOA board members need to understand how to resolve common issues and the protocol for sending a violation letter.
An HOA should always list common violations in a new homeowners packet. It is also good to list them in quarterly newsletters as a refresher for all residents. This way, the HOA knows that they’ve provided each homeowner with the necessary knowledge to avoid common violations (and the fines associated with them).
Here is a list of the most common HOA violations:
- Exterior Renovations
- Garbage Bins
Many HOA’s include smoking, pets, unapproved rentals, too many cars, and parking stipulations to their list of violations. The community’s governing documents should list every violation that the Board is responsible for mitigating.
Elements of a Violation Letter
Unfortunately, just because homeowners are aware of violations doesn’t necessarily mean they will comply. An HOA should have a violation letter template for uniformity and consistency. Here are the basic elements of a violation letter:
- Purpose of the letter – Clearly states the exact violation according to governing documents.
- Notice Number – If it’s the first, second, or final notice of a violation (HOA governing documents should state how many notifications are sent before action is taken).
- Specific Details – dates, times, or photos (if available) of a violation will make it more difficult for a homeowner to dispute the claim.
- Reference HOA Rule – Reference which rule has been broken. Quote it in full and provide reference information so the homeowner can look it up independently.
- A Timeline for Correction – State how much time the homeowner has to correct the violation.
- Penalty for Noncompliance – State what will happen if the issue is not addressed.
- Signatures – Whether or not a committee or the Board composes it, a violation letter should always be signed by the HOA president. This will show the offending homeowner that the complaint has escalated from their neighbor to official action.
When should you deliver a violation letter?
As soon as the Board has determined the violation warrants a notice. The sooner, the better, so the issue can be resolved quickly.
How should you deliver a violation letter?
It is best to deliver the letter through the mail to avoid awkwardness and ill-will. Mail delivery makes it more official and wards off embarrassment or immediate retaliation from the offending homeowner.
How many warnings should you allow?
The HOA governing documents should provide the answer to that question. Let the “rule of 3” guide you if there is no standard protocol. Three warnings appropriately spaced, so the homeowner has sufficient time to fix the issue.
How much time should be given?
It depends on the violation. If it’s something simple like smoking near public spaces or parking a vehicle the wrong way, it should be addressed immediately. If the offense involves repair work, landscaping, or other maintenance issues that require time and money, then giving 4-6 weeks to fix the violation is generous and appropriate.
What if the violation is not corrected?
While the association’s primary goal is to correct the problem, they may have the authority to foreclose on the property and force the homeowner out. The HOA should refer to its governing documents and state laws for protocol and procedures regarding repeated offenses and unresolved violations.
Common violations are pretty cut and dry and easily remedied. However, HOA governing documents may not address unique one-off situations. In that case, the association must first determine if the violation is legal or illegal. If laws are broken, the HOA may need to pass the problem to the authorities. If a violation is legal and the homeowner is simply non-compliant, the HOA may need to call a meeting to discuss further action and put it to a vote. The Board should involve the offending homeowner before taking action so the homeowner can have a chance to explain why they have chosen not to comply with covenant rules and regulations. Sometimes being part of the conversation will yield a solution.
Rules must be in place and enforced for the greater good of the entire community. Prism Realty Management is here to help your Board through challenging situations and help you make the right choices for your community. Reach out to us anytime at (512) 609-8098 or email@example.com.