Disputes happen every day in HOA communities. How you deal with them can make or break your neighborly environment.
It’s not unusual for conflict to arise within an HOA community. Bring different people together and you’re likely to have disputes. When people have different values or expectations, this can lead to infighting. How you deal with problems between residents can have a big impact on the environment in your community. Let’s look at some common issues you are likely to encounter as an HOA board member and good ways to handle them.
Nuisance complaints are the lifeblood of HOA conflict. If you have a few days where these types of complaints are not lodged, consider yourself lucky.
These types of complaints may include:
- An activity that unreasonably interferes with the use or quiet enjoyment of another resident
- A use that creates hazardous, noxious, or offensive conditions
- A violation of local, state, or federal law
In practice, these complaints look like minor issues with not-so-minor consequences, such as:
- Odors (cigarettes, garbage, pets, food, etc.)
- Loud noises (music, parties, conversations, yelling/fights, home theatres, children, barking dogs, etc.)
- Visual issues (clutter around the house, balcony, or patio)
- Health and safety issues (outdoor fires, pests/rodents, hoarding, pets, and smoking)
Everyone in the HOA community needs to live together and not make their presence a nuisance. But what should you do when one or more residents steps over the line?
Have HOA guidelines
Clear HOA guidelines and community standards go a long way to resolving disputes. Your covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R) should include the use of common areas, pets, noise violations, as well as property uses and standards.
Whenever a complaint is lodged, consult these documents to review the rules that have already been established. This will provide an easier path to resolution.
Develop a plan
Ensure you have a clear conflict resolution plan as part of your bylaws or policies & procedures. Start by researching federal, state, and local regulations regarding HOA conflict resolution. Most states have laws that call for homeowners associations to put a dispute resolution plan into place when there’s a conflict.
Ensure a swift resolution
Allowing problems to drag on for months is not a good strategy. In many cases, state or local laws require an HOA board to take action within a certain timeframe, so establish deadlines based on these regulations.
The process of conflict resolution
Although policies may differ due to state or local laws, certain aspects of conflict resolution apply across the board. A broad policy should include the following four steps.
1. Request a dispute resolution
One party needs to present a written request for a dispute resolution. Usually, a member of the association and the owners involved in the dispute will be listed as parties seeking resolution.
2. Set up an initial meeting
Schedule a meeting with all parties involved in the dispute. Again, your bylaws or policies/procedures may dictate how soon you schedule the meeting. The meeting should be held at a location that is agreed upon by all parties.
3. Write and sign an agreement
Hopefully, the matter can be resolved in one meeting. If so, both parties must acknowledge the agreement in writing. If no resolution can be reached, you will need to bring in a neutral third party.
4. Meet with a third-party negotiator
If all goes well, you won’t need this fourth step. Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary for a neutral third party to become involved. He or she will have to present a resolution that takes both parties into account. When an agreement is finally reached, both parties must sign it.
If you have a clear plan in place, you will be able to handle disputes more efficiently. You are also more likely to reach a satisfying conclusion that both parties can accept. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you develop an effective way to keep the peace in your community.
Develop a plan for vendor hiring and management
VendorSmart may not be able to solve HOA conflicts for you, but we can help manage vendors and service providers. From searching and vetting vendors to providing ongoing risk and compliance management, we can take care of your community’s needs. Contact us to get started.