As a homeowner in an HOA community, you may have noticed your neighbor frequently making noise with their lawnmower early in the morning. This could be a simple complaint to bring up at the next board meeting, or it might escalate into something more serious that would require legal intervention.
Sometimes, homeowners are unaware of their rights when resolving conflicts within an HOA community. In this blog post, we’ll discuss proven ways for the Homeowners Association Board members and Community Managers to resolve these disputes amicably before they escalate and end up in court, which can save everyone time and money.
HOA Dispute Resolution Tips
The best way for homeowners to avoid costly litigation when living in a community with an HOA is by working together with the board members to solve any disputes. Both sides must liaise to develop a common ground and work together on solving any issues related to the property, including building violations, landscaping rules, etc.
When done correctly, this could help solve HOA disputes before they escalate. The last thing an association wants is somebody taking matters into their own hands and hiring an attorney who can drag out expensive proceedings.
Know the Rules and Bylaws
The board and homeowners must understand and follow the HOA regulations. It’s also a good idea to go through the rules, agreements, and deeds to see if any of them are unjustified.
Furthermore, it is imperative to know your rights as a homeowner and understandably present them so that the board can understand their part of the responsibilities.
There are existing laws concerning how much time, effort, and money HOA boards should spend on enforcing these rules; however, they are ineffective if nobody pays attention to them.
Define the Issue
When looking to solve HOA disputes the correct way, you’ll want to meet with both parties individually to hear their side of the story and find a solution that works for everyone.
If you only hear one side of the story, it can be challenging to determine what really happened or who violated any rules or laws. You’ll want to sit down with both sides, patiently listen and ask questions if needed. It’s important not to make any judgments and remain impartial.
At this point, we want board members and community managers alike to focus on problem-solving instead of anything else. Make sure there are no hidden agendas from either party involved since this could lead to more problems down the road.
After speaking with each homeowner individually and listening to their side of the story, ask to set up a meeting where they can both be present.
In some unfortunate situations, when an informal negotiation isn’t enough, an HOA mediation becomes crucial. During mediation, a professional mediator will enter the picture to assist the parties in reaching a settlement.
In addition, the mediator will pay attention to all participants to establish a compromise or find a middle ground as part of their duty. However, there is no law requiring that mediation takes place. By implication, the HOA and homeowner cannot be compelled to participate in one.
While having a third party that is neutral to act as a mediator will cost money, and the entire process of resolving a dispute takes time. Still, it is a lot better than going to court.
Finding a good negotiator or facilitator to help guide both sides into a resolution that will satisfy everyone involved could end up saving the association, and its members, thousands of dollars in legal fees alone. Hiring an attorney to handle one case can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 or more.
When mediation fails, the next step to solving Homeowners Association disputes before they become full-blown legal battles is arbitration. This process requires money and a considerable amount of time to complete but still far less than lawsuits.
Therefore, we recommend solving Homeowners Association disputes at this stage before they reach the irreversible step. Arbitration is generally less formal than a courtroom proceeding.
It does involve an arbitration hearing at which both sides present oral arguments, documents, and facts. Proceedings are not recorded, but the parties have the right to hire their own court reporters for a fee if they choose.
The arbitrator’s decision is final and binding on both parties. However, in some circumstances, such as fraud or misconduct, either party may seek an appeal. Additionally, all mandatory appeals must be exhausted before someone can take legal action.
Arbitration is appealing because both sides share expenses such as filing fees and arbitrator’s fees, which can easily exceed $5000 in some cases. And unlike litigation, which can take years to resolve, arbitration usually takes less than six months.
Another advantage is that, in most cases, arbitration is confidential. But once the arbitrator decides the case’s outcome, it will be made public. This encourages open discussions between disputants and reduces post-decision griping, where it often results in endless badmouthing of opposing counsel or board members by aggrieved parties.
Meeting in the Middle
Many HOA board members are also homeowners. That puts the board in the challenging position of enforcing rules they helped create or live by themselves under some circumstances. That’s why it is crucial for you as a board member to remain impartial when enforcing HOA rules on other members, so no one accuses you of any unfair behavior.
Instead, you’ll want to encourage neighborly conduct versus hostility and clarify the position the HOA plays in the dispute, including proper authority. You should also not forget that you serve all individuals within the community regardless of who voted to elect you into office.
With this in mind, it will also be a grave matter if you ever have to contemplate taking your Homeowners Association disputes as far as litigation. If the time comes when a lawsuit needs to be filed against someone or a group of people, be mindful of the time and costs affiliated with such cases.
In the end, it might not be worth filing any kind of lawsuit unless you’re certain that no other resolutions can be established, and even then, proceed with caution.
Always try to find resolutions before allowing matters to escalate and proceed to court. Do whatever is necessary to meet somewhere in between and find a way to resolve the dispute without further legal action.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you enforce the current laws and minimize any potential issues with residents in your community.