Deed restrictions are written agreements limiting how the property of a community can be used. Both private and public communities have these restrictions, but the restrictions for the former are typically more stringent. This is because HOA communities have a defined aesthetic and code of conduct that subsequently lends to creating a unique community appeal. However, the board or its homeowners association management company may spend more time enforcing the restrictions than would a municipality. When board members or HOA services have difficulty enforcing deed restriction violations (DRVs), the strategies below can help improve the situation.
Make Compliance Seem Positive
Homeowners may choose to live in a planned community for the benefits of sustained property value, security services, and private recreation, but maintain they are still independent as homeowners. At some point, many residents decorate or use their property in a way that violates a restriction, but restoring compliance need not make them feel annoyed or frustrated.
For HOAs, the key is to make compliance seem positive and not negative. Showing proof of improved real estate value, pointing out the uniqueness of the community’s aesthetic compared to other neighborhoods, and showing how the time and money spent enforcing deed restrictions could be better spent developing the community are ways to point out reasons for implementing beneficial compliance guidelines.
Address Violations Promptly
Violations will inevitably occur. When they do, board members or the manager should have violations promptly addressed. Some trusts have a statute of limitations for addressing deed restriction violations, but even when there are no time constraints, letting a violation persist could present the appearance of favoritism toward the violator. If a resident can paint his or her vestibule purple, can the neighbor not paint his or her tool shed red? These types of questions can be avoided when HOA boards promptly address deed restriction violations.
Take a Polite but Firm Approach
The board or the homeowners association management company should refrain from becoming overaggressive in communicating deed restriction violations. Depending on the source of the violation, the homeowner might feel stung by even the kindest communication. With this in mind, board members or the HOA services provider should use a friendly approach when reaching out to violators. In many cases, a polite letter can prevent a standoff that ends in legal action.
A Possible Warning of Legal Action
If a homeowner refuses to bring his or her property into compliance, a stronger message might need to be sent—perhaps the warning of potential legal action. No board member or HOA manager wants to have problems elevate to this level, and more often than not issues do not reach this drastic stage. However, in rare circumstances, seeking legal action may be warranted, depending on the language in the governing documents of the community.
Use Management Resources
Addressing deed restriction violations may be difficult for board members. They often know the violators personally, and may feel they lack the objectivity or tenacity to enforce compliance. In such situations, a homeowners association management company that offers a full line of HOA services can be especially helpful. The company will provide professional, discreet communication in the best interest of the community. If a violation persists despite friendly measures to resolve it, the company will take the necessary steps to resolve the matter legally.
If there happens to be a standing disagreement between the homeowners association and a resident, both parties should consult the binding agreement within the governing documents to which all residents agree before moving into a community with an established HOA. If a resident continues to be disagreeable, the management company should politely point out they are simply abiding by the enforcement policies to which all parties involved must adhere. The management company should articulate the policies and guidelines of which they are enforcing to the resident. If the resident is reasonable, then any potential incident should be immediately quelled, based on the established and previously agreed on policies and guidelines.