Written by Mary Arnold, CMCA®, AMS® - National Director of Training and Community Association Management Support
Anyone who has ever served on the Board of Directors of a Homeowner Association has experienced the frustration of homeowners who fail to mow their lawn regularly or properly maintain their home. “How can they do that?” you may ask, “when they agreed to abide by their rules when they purchased their home in our community!” Even when owners are notified of rule infractions, it can be difficult to get everyone in the community on board. Over the years we have found some tried and true measures to help you resolve these issues for the greater good of the community when a homeowner seemingly thumbs their nose at the rules.
First, let’s face it, fines do not always work. In fact,
4. Group Repairs. Appoint a Committee to coordinate with a vendor to perform bulk repairs at a discounted group rate to homeowners who wish to opt in. Many homes were built at the same time and may be experiencing the same issues due to aging. For example, are numerous homes at your having issues with their fence? A contractor coming to one house to fix an aging fence will surely cost more than if he can visit 5 or 10 houses on the same day. With this method, you can correct and possibly even prevent violations while offering a convenient and affordable service for your residents.
5. Create Pre-Approved Lists. A homeowner will be able to perform repairs
6. Stop sending violation letters. “What is that?”, you say? Yes, you read it right, stop sending letters. While it may sound counter intuitive, if the first 2 or 3 notices didn’t compel the homeowner to cure the violation, chances are, neither will a 4th, 5th or 6th. If all required notices have been delivered and the violation remains, it’s time to implement other remedies provide more effective than an endless succession of letters:
a) Self help. Most governing documents provide for self help; exercise your self-help option and ask your landscaper to perform a force mow. (Or ask your maintenance service to repair the fallen fence, or relocate the highly visible trash can behind the owner’s fence, etc.). When the invoice arrives, bill it back to the homeowner. With this approach, you’ve achieved your ultimate goal of curing the violation, and thereby improving curb appeal. And, it will not take be long before word spreads that if you don’t maintain your property, the association may do it for you and you’ll receive a hefty bill! Sometimes nothing provides more incentive than the almighty dollar.
b) Legal Engagement. For those violations where self-help is not an option (i.e., a boat in a driveway which you cannot remove), ask the association’s attorney to send a letter. More often than not, virtually the same letter on attorney letterhead will result in the cure the association seeks, without the need for any further action. In most cases, the cost of the attorney’s letter can be charged back to the owner as long as proper notice requirements were followed. In the rare instance where a letter alone does not cure the violation, the Board has the option to consider further legal action. Just as in the case of self-help, word will quickly spread throughout the community, enticing more owners to make an effort to maintain their property and heed notices they receive early in the process.
7) Recognize well-kept homes. When driving through your community, you can’t help but notice the one house that always has an impeccable lawn, or the most beautiful seasonal flowers, or that is just consistently clean and free of any violations. Make a note of their address and send them a quick note of thanks, or give them an honorable mention in the next community newsletter. The residents will appreciate being recognized for doing something right instead of only when they do something wrong, and this positive reinforcement serves to motivate others in the community to uphold the same standards.