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Can a Homeowners Association Fine if You Break the Rules?

Posted by sonrise on July 9, 2019
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Anyone who lives in a community run by a homeowners association (HOA) knows that there are community rules created and enforced by the HOA. In some communities there are rules stipulating how houses can be painted, the fencing that can be erected, whether or not extensions can be added onto a house, where garbage cans must be stored, what kind of pets are allowed and many other things. It is not uncommon for homeowners to feel put upon and wonder what would happen if they broke a rule or two.

What happens when a community member breaks a HOA rule?

Typically, a homeowners association will have bylaws and CC&Rs that give clear descriptions as to how rules are enforced. This may include discussion of a violation by a HOA board first, serving written notice to a homeowner and giving the person time to fix the issue before taking action against them. It is wise for a homeowner to engage with their HOA and try to fix the situation as quickly as possible or the matter can escalate into an unpleasant situation or a lawsuit.

Can a homeowners association fine you if you break the rules?

The powers that a HOA has to enforce its rules and regulations depends on the specific development and the state it is in. These powers are laid out in the HOA bylaws and its Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). Action taken by a HOA must be in compliance with applicable state and federal laws.

When a community member breaks the rules – such as keeping Christmas lights up too long, a designated member of the homeowners association may be able to take several steps to address the issue, including:

  1. Visiting the homeowner’s property to confirm that the rule has been broken.
  2. Sending a letter identifying the broken rule.
  3. Assessing a fine which may be a set amount or per day such as every day action is not taken to fix the issue.
  4. Banning a homeowner from using shared facilities until they pay the fine and/or take action to correct the violation.
  5. Suing a homeowner to get them to comply.
  6. Having the homeowner pay for the cost incurred in pursuing legal action against them.
  7. Enforcing liens on a homeowner’s property if they owe a significant amount in fines or the cost of legal action. When this happens, the title to a property is not availed until the amount owed is paid in full.

State laws about homeowners association rules enforcement

In some states, it isn’t mandatory for a homeowner to be given notice before action is taken against them for breaking a rule. HOA and owner disputes are fairly common so states strive to keep these conflicts out of court. In some states, HOAs are required to try and resolve the conflict through arbitration or mediation before filing a lawsuit. In some states, placing a lien for unpaid fines is regulated. Most states require that notice and time to act is given before a lien is placed.

Seeking legal redress 

A homeowner may feel that they have been wrongly accused of breaking HOA rules. A homeowner should first review their homeowners association rules to be sure that the HOA is acting in accordance with the rules set out. If a homeowner feels that they did not break a rule or that they are being unfairly targeted or discriminated against, they should raise the matter with their HOA. If the matter is not resolved this way then it may be appropriate for the homeowner to seek legal counsel.

Son-Rise Property Management has been serving the property management needs of Bellingham and Whatcom County since 1996. Contact us today to see how we can help you find a rental property for your family or manage your rental properties.

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