RealManage Insight

5 Ways To Handle a Resident Complaint About HOA Violations

by Katie Vaughan on Jul 29, 2021 9:40:00 AM

As an HOA board member, you will constantly be confronted with complaints about one issue or another. Like any other shared community, misunderstandings among HOA members are bound to arise. And for this reason, board members must have an established system of resolving disputes to create a habitable environment and avoid conflicts with the law.

While complaints are almost unavoidable, they don't have to escalate or get ugly. HOAs are obligated to have a dispute resolution process that dictates how claims arising from violations should be handled. For sure, no association can address every complaint every time. However, having a procedure and adhering to it can prove that the board members are dedicated to dealing with issues promptly and consistently.  

Read on to see the dos and don'ts of handling residents' complaints about an HOA violation and how you can resolve them as a board member: 

A step-by-step guide for handling complaints

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to deal with complaints in an HOA

• Step 1: Understand and acknowledge 

• Step 2: Check the law

• Step 3: Check your governing documents

• Step 4: Discuss with the board and HOA manager

• Step 5: Communicate the resolution

Tips for dealing with homeowners' complaints

Below are tips on how to resolve complaints arising from HOA violations.

Ask that complaints be in writing.   

Asking residents to put their complaints in writing is crucial as it allows you to have the necessary information to follow up on a case. It also ensures there is an adequate paper trail to prove that a claim was handled the right way if there are disputes in the future. 

Note that, in some cases, owners might be concerned about being identified. Explain to them the need to have a record, and assure them you will keep their identity private during the investigations. If the issue does not necessitate the member to be known, you can resolve the complaint without exposing their identity. 

Consider informal collection 

If you don't have a community manager, you can address complaints informally. There are multiple ways to do it; for instance, some HOAs hold town hall community meetings, others prefer to set up suggestion boxes, and others provide an email where residents can send their complaints. 

You can also designate the responsibility of dealing with complaints to a group of board members. Again, choose an approach that accommodates the schedule of board members and one that suits your community well.   

Use your HOA management company. 

Community managers are trained in conflict resolution and handling disputes and are therefore best placed to deal with complaints about HOA violations. In addition, some complaints are easily verifiable and do not require the manager to develop a process. 

However, if they are difficult to verify, the HOA management company can set up a process and explain how it works. This ensures they understand how the board plans to sort out the issue to develop a definitive solution.   

Know when a complaint requires board action

In the absence of sufficient information to resolve a complaint right away, the issues should be forwarded to the board for further consideration-ideally, within 90 days (depending on the urgency of the issue). As the complaint is being handled, you can contact the involved parties to gather more information to help solve the problem amicably. If necessary, the complainant should have an opportunity to testify in front of the board. 

Avoid giving the manager too much authority.  

Board members should limit the authority they give to community managers, especially if they do not have the knowledge and expertise to deal with conflicts. The customer service department should not be allowed to address conflicts. They may not be fully conversant with the community governing documents, which means they are not suited to handle complaints. 

Summary   

Indeed, complaints about HOA violations are part of every shared community, and the best way to deal with them is to be adequately prepared. Whether you choose to do it yourself or elect an HOA management company, being proactive in dealing with complaints can help guarantee a peaceful and habitable community. 

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