Jesse Hitt • 01 Sep 2023 • 6 min read

Enforcing HOA rules: Here Comes Karen

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Our entire society runs on rules, but not everyone thinks rules apply to them. HOA Management workers and volunteers are tasked with enforcing homeowners association rules. Sometimes, people are simply so busy going about their lives and responsibilities that they might forget about an HOA regulation now and then, which is only human. These are rules everyone living in the community has agreed to abide by, but it seems there’s always someone who feels they must push back against the rules. 

This hypothetical person could be anyone, any gender, from any background. But let’s imagine this person’s name is “Karen.” Let’s imagine what Karen would like the rules to be for her, vs. what the rules are in reality, and most importantly, how to manage the difference.

It’s not easy for HOA board members to enforce the rules. And too often, board members have to come up with creative ways to clarify the rules and enforce them for folks like our neighbor, Karen, who…doesn’t seem to get it. With the right capabilities and communication, HOA management software can help avoid friction and unpleasantness.

An HOA isn’t a police state, and it shouldn’t be run like one. HOA management is a fine balance between maintaining the neighborhood according to established standards and maintaining good relations with homeowners. Let’s discuss that balance; it’s largely based on three elements:

  • Communication
  • Transparency
  • Consensus
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Karen has had a lot of experience with people who try to take advantage of her kindness and willingness to compromise. That’s why she presents such a hardened exterior to the world. She may seem mean and stubborn, but deep down inside, (we hope) Karen is a softie. Karen just wants to feel that she’s being heard and that the association is willing to treat her with some respect.

HOA management is sometimes accused of selectively enforcing the rules and trying to leverage those rules to the advantage of the association, at the expense of homeowners. HOA management can be seen as using the rules to force changes on residents that they may not want, didn’t ask for, and didn’t agree to. It’s important for an HOA to minimize the risks of creating a negative image with homeowners and to do what it can to increase the likelihood of good relations between the association and residents.

Communication helps. HOAs can avoid the appearance of singling out Karen by using mass communication that’s not (necessarily) targeted at any one person or household. Using mass communication methods such as emails, flyers, and mass text messaging ensures that everyone in the community receives important messages. Mass communication also means that Karen won’t be able to use the excuse of not having received a message, especially if the rules state that residents are responsible for checking email or texts from the HOA.

Communication tools for HOA management help keep the association on the moral high ground when enforcing the rules. When everyone knows the rules, they’re all on the “same sheet of music,” and everyone knows what’s expected. There’s no perception of being singled out for harassment—not even by Karen, who prides herself on tolerating no disrespect from anyone. With effective communication, it’s clear that the HOA is only enforcing the rules that every household in the community knows and has agreed on.

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Karen doesn’t like surprises. She’s a little suspicious of authority, and if something seems out of the ordinary, she’ll make some noise about it. It’s essential for HOA management to keep everything said and done above board at all times. And when it’s necessary to make changes in the way things are done, HOA management should get in front of it, create the narrative, and answer questions immediately. Bad news never improves with age, so if the association has something to say or do that residents may not like, it’s best to get it out there now. Don’t give gossip a chance to take hold; control the narrative with open information.

Transparency means that:

  • Changes are announced as far in advance as possible.
  • Whatever is happening affects all residents fairly and equitably.
  • There are no secrets; if it’s all in the open and according to the rules, there’s nothing to argue about.
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Nothing is going to set Karen off like the perception that policy is being set by one person, or some elitist group without the knowledge of the community. There are a few actions that can avoid this perception, and all of them are carried out with transparency:

  • Ask for community input while courses of action are under consideration.
  • Hold a community-wide vote when possible for changes, and make all decisions public.
  • Use data to drive decisions, and show your work; this helps to remove personalities from the equation.

When community consensus is gained through a voting process—or even discussion during open board meetings—it affords the community a sense of ownership of decision-making. When Karen knows that she was part of the decision-making process, it’s hard for her to argue with the results.

Running an HOA is a sort of tightrope act, but the right technology can streamline just about every process. Consider PayHOA HOA management software capabilities:

  • Mass communication and individual messaging made effortless
  • Document storage that makes the rules—and anything else—accessible to members
  • Public posting and message boards for optimal transparency
  • Community voting feature for assessing homeowners’ desires and expectations

HOA Management Software Built for Communication

HOA management software improves communication between residents and HOA management, but some software is better than others. 

HOA management software optimizes relations between the association and homeowners with:

  • Updates through email or newsletters
  • Homeowner surveys and voting
  • Diversified communication channels according to member preference

PayHOA software enables automated emails, text messages, phone calls, and postal mail. The software’s survey feature collects feedback and opinions from homeowners. PayHOA’s communication tools—all in one place—are designed with HOAs in mind. HOA management can now use the same software for accounting, correspondence, maintenance tracking, and violations. PayHOA has put everything you need for HOA management in one easily accessible portal. Click here to try it out.

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