The protective nature of HOA rules often attracts residents to communities. Setting clearly understood standards helps to maintain a cohesive community, and reasonable rules act as a buffer to prevent tension between neighbors. Striking a balance between chaos and burdensome bureaucracy is the key to a happy community.
When implementing new HOA rules or deciding upon a set of standards, set about to create standards that are not divisive, all the while protecting the community’s value.
Here are some guidelines to help you do that:
Be clear and set straightforward requirements. The community guidelines should be easy to understand and follow—nobody likes tricky HOA rules that are difficult to adhere to.
Does the HOA rule have a good rationale behind it? Consider the implications if a proposed rule is violated—is a rule merely nitpicky, or are there rational slippery slope implications? Also consider if the rule is a reasonable part of a larger policy (ie. safety, aesthetics, collective property value, peace and quiet). Do not implement rules that burden residents if there is no benefit to the community. Similarly, heavy fines for slight infractions do little to harbor good will between an HOA board and residents.
Communicate with Residents
Whether deciding on adding a new HOA rule, or clarifying existing ones, be sure that everybody understands what is being proposed or implemented, and why it is necessary and useful. Residents should not be using ignorance of the rules as an excuse for violations.
Address Broken HOA Rules Quickly and Fairly
Inform the resident quickly with a detailed description of the infraction, including fines due and remedies necessary. When HOA rules are broken, consistency in enforcement is generally the best bet. Residents will tend to ignore certain rules if there is a blanket policy of lenience.
Allow for Reasonable Exceptions
Implementing arbitrary penalties, or refusing to consider the nuance in certain cases can result in poor working relationships between residents and the HOA board. The board should exercise common sense when allowing for reasonable rule exceptions that do not harm the integrity of the community standards. However, exceptions to HOA rules should be just that: an exception. The rules as a whole still apply to everybody evenly.
When implementing and enforcing rules, it is important to remember that residents have the right to legal counsel if they feel unfairly punished, or feel that a rule does not serve a useful purpose. HOA management companies can help ensure that rules are enforced fairly.
Simple, rational, and fair rules ensure the continued quality of a community. The continued consideration of an HOA’s guidelines is a vital part of maintaining a neighborly atmosphere.