The Truth about HOAs
Don’t Blame Governing Documents, Blame Inconsistent Enforcement
Myth: Enforcing your community association’s Governing Documents leads to unhappy homeowners.
Most people believe that enforcing the Rules and Regulations and other restrictions in the Declaration leads to unhappy homeowners. It feels right, because no one likes to get a letter saying “You are in violation of a neighborhood covenant.” However, in my experience I find the exact opposite to be true. If an Association does NOT enforce the written R&Rs, it leads to far more unhappy homeowners than the few that get upset upon receiving a reminder letter.
For example, a very common rule in HOAs is to store your trash cans in the garage. Everyone forgets once in a while and they may get a reminder letter. We’ve received actual communications where owners apologize for violating the rule and thank us for pointing it out. These homeowners understand the value of the rule in keeping the neighborhood looking great, which leads to higher property values. They also know that the rules are being consistently enforced and can be assured that all the other rules are getting the same treatment.
Now imagine that instead of consistent and fair enforcement, the community checks for trash can violations only once a year, then sends out a bunch of violation letters, and doesn’t follow up until next year. Most homeowners upon receiving the letter will comply and follow the rules. But, when they see their neighbor across the street leave their trash cans out ALL YEAR and never receive a second letter, they’re going to think, “Why do I have to follow the rules and they don’t?” And they’d be right! Why indeed.
This experience can lead homeowners to wonder what else isn’t being done in the community and pretty soon you have a dysfunctional HOA. This is just one example utilizing a simple trash can rule. Imagine all of the other R&Rs that a community association is responsible for enforcing and it’s easy to see how quickly and how widespread homeowner morale can plummet.
Fact: Consistent and fair enforcement of the Governing Documents leads to happier homeowners.
Consistent enforcement takes fortitude. The homeowners who do receive letters might be upset in the moment and they may take it out on the Board or the Community Manager. However, once the reason for enforcement is explained most homeowners understand that the rules are in place for the greater good of the entire community. But, even if that homeowner just can’t stand following Association rules, as a board member, you can’t let the violations go unenforced because that is not in the best interest of the community as a whole. Many people specifically look for communities that have certain rules in place and they will have a legitimate reason to be upset if they are not being consistently and fairly enforced.