There is nothing that will add more stress and bring up more discord and resentment in a homeowner's association than when fines are imposed on members of the community association. The truth of the matter is fines are an unfortunate but necessary tool to ensure that homeowners meet their obligations to the community with regard to the HOA's bylaws, rules, and regulations. There are several considerations a homeowner's association should make to ensure they are enforcing the rules and imposing fines in a responsible manner throughout their community association.
Review Your Governing Documents & Applicable Laws
If you are planning on beginning to impose fines for a growing problem or new issue within your community take a moment to review your governing documents. By reviewing the homeowner associations bylaws and CC&Rs you can feel confident that you are operating within your delineated enforcement rights by imposing fines on members of the community. In addition to reviewing your HOA's governing documents, you must also review any applicable laws and statutes in your state with regards to requirements and procedures for the imposition of fines by the HOA. Depending on the residence state of your HOA, there may be required notice and procedures that must be followed before you can legally fine homeowners. You must also make sure the fine is "reasonable" in the eyes of any applicable laws.
Communicate Clearly & Repeatedly
The purpose of fines should not be to generate income but rather be used as a tool for deterrence and to encourage homeowners to comply with the HOA's rules and regulations to keep their community well maintained, appealing, and running smoothly. In order to reduce animosity and anger among HOA residents, it is in your best interest to implement an effective communication campaign for any changes to regulations or upcoming enforcement of rules that may have been pardoned or ignored in the past.
Take extra measures to notify homeowners through various means of communication such as email, mail, community portals, signage in shared spaces and clubhouses. Put your homeowner's on notice clearly and with ample time to allow them to rectify and address the situation if needed to avoid being fined. It is a good idea to possibly implement a first warning policy or system; where the HOA will notify a member of a pressing issue regarding their violation of any HOA rules or regulations. Give your community association members a fair chance to correct the problem before imposing fines.
Enforce Rules & Impose Fines Uniformly
A critical factor in imposing fines on the members of your HOA is to do so in a fair and uniform manner across the board. There can be no arbitrary enforcement or favoritism when it comes to the impositions of fines due to violations of the community's rules or regulations. Develop a procedure that delineates the steps that will be taken from the first sign of the violation to the point of imposing a fine on the homeowner. Make sure the board, managers, and officers are well informed as to that procedure and hold all of the members of the community to the same uniform standard.
Imposing fines can cause a large rift in your community and a negative perception of your HOA when fines are implemented hastily, unfairly, and without proper notice. Take the time to create a procedure that can be implemented fairly and professionally while notifying homeowners of this process. When homeowners are made aware of the rules and the process for ensuring the rules are being followed they will be less likely to violate those rules. At the very least residents that are given the opportunity to make things right will be more understanding of the need for imposing fines when homeowners choose to repeatedly ignore communications by the associations before they resort to imposing a fine.
At RealManage we can help your HOA enforce your rules and regulations but it is critical for your board to create a clear and concise policy and procedure to address violations as well as when and how those rules will be enforced. Often misaligned, a management company is not responsible for how and when residents are fined but rather assist with enforcement with very strict board control. Every decision RealManage makes with regards to violations and fines are prompted by the community bylaws and rules and restrictions and must be in line with the boards decisions.