One of the most disliked aspects of managing homeowner’s associations is tracking violations and enforcement. While most homeowners have every intention of following the rules, some may misinterpret or forget certain restrictions. In other cases, rule changes may take place that existing homeowners disagree with. Whatever the cause, HOA violation software offers a simple solution. Use it to record violations, ascribe them to specific residents and track the resolution process.
Consider the Legal Framework
Every state and municipality has its own guidelines when it comes to HOAs and the legal rights afforded to them. Laws may govern when and how you may issue notices to homeowners and how much you can charge for fines. Whether an HOA is incorporated can also make a difference in its rights and responsibilities. Finally, should the HOA CC&R enforcement plan result in issuing a lien on the property, legal frameworks exist for this too.
These differences make it necessary for you to become familiar with the local laws for each community you manage. Then, determine how these laws dictate the rules you can make and how you enforce them. Note that there are also federal laws that govern HOAs and homeowners can file complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Know the Rules
Some HOA workers know the rules so well that they can recite the inches of height for grass or the specific colors of flowers homeowners can plant outside. Most people, however, need to take time to review the rules and become more familiar. Find a way to organize the information so you can fact-check yourself easily when you suspect a violation.
The aim is not to over-police the community but to reduce the likelihood of perceived favoritism across violations and homeowners. When you know what the rules are and why they are in place, it becomes easier to act appropriately and fairly.
Choose a Formal System
Organizing and tracking violations by hand takes time and effort. Manual tracking also creates more room for human error. Homeowners often view HOA enforcements as encroaching on their property rights. In fact, only 57% of Americans living within HOA communities say they like their HOAs. Consequently, it is important to strike a balance between treading lightly and maintaining a firm stance on important rules.
Should a specific issue end up in a courtroom, the more consistent you have been with enforcing these rules, the stronger case you can make to protect the HOA and its interests. This is especially important for cases that involve discrimination complaints.
Invest in Automation Technology
There are many ways to formalize the tracking system, but automation technology is your best bet. To accomplish this, you need to put the correct parameters in place. From there, it becomes easier to enter the necessary information, note violations, track them and send out notices. It may also simplify the resolution process, which may include fines and follow-up inspections.
Here are some additional reasons to choose automated solutions:
• Improves accuracy
• Creates better records
• Saves time
• Increases satisfaction
One of the greatest perks of tracking and collecting data is how easy the analysis process becomes. Trends that might otherwise fly under the radar now become more clear. For instance, you may recognize that homeowners break a specific rule at certain times of the year. You may also note that most homeowners have broken one specific rule. This information can help you determine when to begin checking for violations or whether some rules are worth keeping.
No HOA wants to give the impression that if homeowners keep breaking rules they will simply change them. However, HOAs serve the community, and if the majority of homeowners are against a specific rule, it may not serve the community’s interests as well as originally intended.
Consider Additional Tasks
When you invest in HOA violation software, take a look at the bigger picture. What additional features do you need to better manage your HOA? Complete a needs analysis to determine this. You might even decide to survey residents to see what conveniences they might prefer. Once you determine what additional perks you want, narrowing down your HOA violation tracking options becomes much easier.
The specific HOA software you use determines the features you gain access to. Most include more than just tools for HOA violation enforcement. Here are some of the most commonly requested features:
• Online payment options for dues and fines
• Use of one log-in to manage violation tracking across multiple communities
• Creation of filters and tags to simplify the violation tracking process
• 24/7 resident access to online documents, violations and the enforcement process
• Risk-free trial for 30 days
When making your final decision, it is also important to consider the cost and the risk involved with trying a particular product. Software Features are the most important deciding factor, but overpriced options may eat away at the cost-effectiveness of the benefits provided.