Communities governed by a homeowner’s association have governing documents such as the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions, and the HOA rules, regulations, and bylaws. But like the owner’s manual for a car, most of these documents are not read unless a subject applies to homeowners such as owning a pet or displaying a flag or until they receive a notice violation.
Violations may be a mistake, so issuance of a written warning is a recommended first step. It should include the violation’s details. Hopefully, residents will comply so the following steps will not be necessary.
If warnings are ineffective, fines can discourage future violations. Fines should be reasonable and address the specific violation. For example, a $100 fine for failure to remove Halloween decorations is excessive.
If fines are unpaid, more penalties can accrue. The HOA may then take legal action.
Rights and privileges
The HOA may suspend rights and privileges. These typically limiting access to various amenities such as pool and clubhouses or participating in votes. But it is important that the HOA complies with Arizona law.
For serious violations, the HOA may place a lien on the violator’s property which could lead to legal action. Placing a lien does not guarantee payment. But if the property is ever sold, the new owner may need to pay the lien settlement as a condition of the purchase.
Standard procedures make the difficult task of enforcement somewhat easier and fairer. CC&Rs, bylaws and other governing documents should contain specific guidance on addressing violations.
Following procedures should also help assure that enforcement is not selective or biased and that there is no favoritism. Selecting which rules to enforce or giving a break because you are friends with the violator can lead to lawsuits and noncompliance.
An attorney with experience in HOAs and related issues can help draft governing rules. They can also help communities with enforcement.