During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, everyday life changed for people around the world. Life is returning to normal in the pandemic’s wake, but some changes are here to stay, which presents challenges for HOA management.
People got used to doing things online when they were trapped in their homes during lockdowns. The digital revolution was well underway long before the pandemic, but experts say Covid pushed previously reluctant people onto their computers and smartphones.
Before the pandemic, some steered clear of making online purchases because of security and privacy concerns. Others didn’t want to be bothered with learning new technology that had been unnecessary for most of their lives. Some didn’t want to give up a personal touch when shopping.
Those concerns were swept away in the wake of the pandemic. With limited ways to spend their time, people took to their digital devices to spend their money. E-commerce sales surged during the pandemic:
- $571.2 billion in 2019
- $815.4 billion in 2020
The changes didn’t just affect spending. People started learning online. Physicians met with their patients during telemedicine sessions. Workers logged into their jobs from their home computers, and some industrious people built side hustles and ran them from their kitchen tables and garages.
When faced with the possibility of losing their jobs, some started side gigs, such as renting their homes to make extra income during unsteady times. Others looked to solar panels to bring down their costs of living.
In addition, an excess of free time led people to consider new hobbies, such as learning how to fly drones or play the electric guitar.
None of these changes are necessarily bad, but they create issues for homeowners association management teams to consider.
If someone’s job was cut during the pandemic, it makes perfect sense that they would do whatever possible to find another way to support themselves and their family. For some people in the U.S., earning a living isn’t just a pragmatic thing to do, it’s a virtue.
However, good homeowners association management requires that one person’s home business doesn’t interfere with anyone else in the neighborhood. There are particular concerns about members using more than their fair share of common spaces.
HOA leadership is tasked with making sure home businesses don’t create a nuisance. While municipal laws and regulations might allow for a particular home business, members of HOAs have voluntarily given up some freedoms to enjoy the collective good of a well-maintained neighborhood.
The HOA’s governing documents usually include strict provisions about commercial activities, including:
However, general rules only go so far. In one California court case, a homeowner was able to continue operating a vineyard because the judge ruled the activity “did not affect the community’s residential character.”
In addition, courts have ruled that residential care facilities, including family day homes and sober living homes, are considered a residential use of the property. Homeowners association management leadership teams need to check their state’s laws to determine if such facilities are allowed in their areas.
When it comes to flags, banners, and signs, HOAs are on a firm footing. Most founding documents include language that forbids the display of signs that advertise for-profit businesses.
As a general rule, a home-based business should be judged by its impact on other property owners. If traffic and parking aren’t hindered and public spaces aren’t affected, then go-getters are usually able to keep doing whatever it takes to pay their HOA dues.
Catching the Sun
Community associations around the country are facing questions about solar power. As an alternative source of energy, solar is gaining traction with homeowners as a way to reduce energy costs and lower carbon footprints. In some cases, tax incentives make solar panels more attractive to homeowners.
However, solar panels on homes change the look of the neighborhood, which could reduce property values. On the other hand, some community members might see solar panels as positive additions to the neighborhood.
Association leaders and the people they represent must decide whether solar panels should be accepted in the neighborhood. If not, then it’s a matter of seeing if any enforceable rules exist that might govern their use.
Another trend is using homes for short-term rentals. It can provide visitors with a nice place to stay while helping the owner make extra income.
However, many HOA communities have taken steps to ban short-term rentals. It might not be in the best interest of the wider neighborhood to have a steady stream of nonresidents moving in and out.
The authority to restrict vacation rentals is usually found in the HOA’s declaration. In addition, some states have laws that ban the practice.
Drones are another relatively new concern for homeowners association management. Technology has advanced to where anyone can buy and fly a drone that’s capable of capturing images on the ground.
For HOAs, drones create concerns about:
- public safety
The issue is complicated by the fact that drone technology wasn’t on anyone’s radar when most community covenants were first recorded.
Sound and (Maybe) Fury
Of course, there’s nothing new about electric guitars and amplifiers. They’ve been around for decades, but Rolling Stone magazine reported that online sales of guitars shot up during the pandemic. One retailer reported selling 1,000 guitars a day.
Acoustic guitars were in the mix, but there are more electric guitars in suburbia thanks to the many idle days of lockdown.
But let’s not single out guitars. There are all types of noise complaints:
- screeching brakes
- revving engines
- barking dogs
- noisy televisions
The first step in addressing a noise complaint is to have a conversation with the neighbor in question. One homeowners’ association management tool is to post reminders of quiet hours. With the right HOA management software, it’s easy to send text or email messages straight to homeowners, so everyone knows the rules in question.
If the issue isn’t resolved, it could be a matter of mediation. HOA rules could be different from local laws, which vary across the nation.
Digital Trends in Homeowners Association Management
For years to come, scholars will write about the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic changed the United States. However, one new trend is obvious—it made people more willing to conduct business and social activities online. When it comes to homeowners association management, some members prefer the ease of doing things digitally.
Robust HOA management software, such as PayHOA, has already helped leaders and residents adapt to digital tools that can alert members to meetings, recruit people for special events, and inform neighbors about potential violations.
The right software makes it possible to collect dues, pay bills, and build budgets. Newsletters can be distributed throughout the neighborhood, and residents can vote from the safety of their phones, tablets, and computers.
PayHOA software also allows the leadership team to keep all documents organized in files and folders that can be:
- shared with everyone
- shared with a selection of people
Expect the digital trend to continue as more volunteers realize how homeowners association management software can streamline their jobs and save time.
There’s no doubt Covid-19 left a lasting mark on the world. As challenges arise, it’s important to have a flexible HOA leadership team that can respond in appropriate and consistent ways that benefit the entire neighborhood.
PayHOA offers an HOA management software solution for HOAs of any size or managerial priorities. To find out if PayHOA fits all your HOA management needs, try our software free for 30 days.