If you live in a neighborhood with a Homeowner Association (HOA), you know they can be a blessing and a curse. They can help maintain property values, provide community connections, and give access to great amenities. HOAs depend on volunteers to serve on the board, but some may not be aware of the common problems HOAs face. Knowing the common issues that arise and how to fix them will make for a smoother year for the board and the owners.
Problem 1: Maintaining Property Values
Top complaints in HOAs tend to include:
- unruly lawns
- overflowing or misplaced trashcans
- overdue holiday decorations
- offensive flags or signs
In order to preserve property values, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the exterior of their homes to include these and any other stipulations in the HOA’s Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions (CC&Rs).
The board is responsible for consistently enforcing CC&Rs in a fair manor. Rules may not be bent to accommodate friends or close neighbors. This is for the board’s protection!
Don’t play favorites or only enforce rules that you happen to care about. And remember, if there is a conflict of interest, recuse yourself.
Problem 2: Common Areas
An HOA’s major function is also to maintain any common areas, whether it’s a pool, a fountain, or just an entrance. Every effort should be made to keep these areas looking like new. If these areas aren’t kept in shape, it’s hard to enforce lawn and care rules on home owners.
Common complaints about common areas include:
- overgrown or unkempt landscaping
- general disrepair
- poor heating or lighting
- unsafe equipment
These issues can not only cause harm to residents and guests, but can affect your curb appeal and, as a result, lower property values.
A good way to ensure proper maintenance is to follow a schedule. You should also have a list of vetted professional contractors do the work. Make sure to document everything and have your treasurer factor these maintenance items into the budget.
Problem 3: Financials
HOA members often want to see how their money is being spent by the board. No one wants to pay a monthly fee and not see anything come of it. Members could also have a hard time paying their monthly assessment and could need financial help. All matter of problems can spring up due to financial problems.
Communicate – Inform your members often of how their money is being spent. This could be in a quarterly email or a monthly newsletter.
Be transparent – Keep all paperwork up-to-date and available for members to examine anytime. Encourage regular attendance at board meetings. Prepare an annual financial report to be distributed to all homeowners.
Keep an eye on the budget – Examine previous budgets to anticipate upcoming expenditures. Routinely check in with contractors and vendors about any expected increases in fees.
Hire a collector – If you have a high delinquency rate or your HOA has problems collecting dues, hire a professional.
Problem 4: Communication
Most HOAs suffer from poor communication. It’s no wonder since most board members are busy with their own personal and professional lives.
Effective communication can be as easy as sending regular emails and notices at the proper time. Alert homeowners to upcoming meetings, send minutes from board meetings, and alert them to any changes in financial reports. Occasionally solicit feedback to keep in touch with how the members are feeling about different topics.
Effective communication also starts with varying delivery of your messages. Use every channel available so you can reach the most homeowners.
Problem 5: CC&Rs Rights & Violations
No one enjoys getting an HOA fine levied at them. It can be embarrassing and lead to hurt feelings. Violations often occur because of lack of communication from the board about new rules. Very few deliberately disobey covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).
Make sure every new homeowner is provided a copy of the CC&Rs, electronic or paper. Encourage them to know their rights as a homeowner and acknowledge the HOA’s right to expect community members to abide by the rules. Keep the lines of communication open if homeowners need help clarifying any areas of confusion.
If the board finds someone in violation of the covenants, it is important to treat each homeowner equally, and stay consistent with fines and warnings. Make sure to keep close track of any violations and refer to your CC&Rs for rules on warnings and timelines.
Problem 6: Pets
Any restrictions the HOA puts on pets is bound to cause friction. Pets are like family to a lot of homeowners so it’s important to balance the joy they bring to some with the nuisance they can be to others. Popular restrictions include keeping your pets on a leash, cleaning up after them, and keeping noise to a minimum. Consult your CC&Rs for specific rules and refer to any policies your state, city, and county requires.
Good communication is yet again a great solution to most problems. Include reminders about responsible pet ownership in your newsletters. Remember to stay consistent if you come across violations.
Make your community more pet-friendly with a “Pet of the Month” contest. This will signal to the community that your HOA appreciates the partnership and help from responsible pet owners.
Problem 7: Handling Complaints
There will be complaints. Oh yes, there will be complaints. As a member of the board, you will definitely get approached, or emailed, or texted. On the one hand, you want to be approachable and open, but on the other hand, you have a life and might not always have time to stop and listen to complaints. You may get anything from complaints about overdue holiday decor removal to parking problems or encroachment issues.
Establish a clear process for complaints. Refer to your CC&Rs for formal complaint reporting. This could be via email or a link on your website, but whatever is decided, stay consistent and fair.
Remember to put yourself in the homeowner’s shoes–if they are passionate enough to come to you with a complaint, it must be important enough for you to listen and help.
Keep in mind that all HOAs are different and you must do what works for you according to your CC&Rs.
Problem 8: Member Engagement
Engagement problems can manifest in low attendance at meetings. COVID also affected how many people participated in social events like potlucks or holiday celebrations.
It may be time to reinvent yourself as far as how you communicate and how you meet up. And as multi-generational residents increase, you may need to vary how you do business.
Taking advantage of Zoom or another online platform can make it easy for all ages to participate.
Another way to increase engagement is to simply ask residents how they’d like to participate. Some may really want lots of socials while others may want to know the business at hand and to be left alone otherwise.