Question: Our rules include things like “garages are for cars and not to have multiple vehicles parked outside, no trampolines and basketball hoops”. Our management company has advised the board that the HOA is powerless to enforce these rules. We have several infractions and have advised the offending members, but they ignore our four step process for resolution. We charge and collect fines, but that is about it for our effectiveness.
Answer: A resolution process is great for mediating disputes. But unless the majority of the HOA members would like to rescind certain rules, they are charged to obey them and the board to enforce them. A resolution process is not appropriate for this kind of enforcement.
Apparently, the fines being charged are not a big enough incentive to correct the violations. Usually, an escalating per day fine eventually gets attention. If the fines are ignored, the HOA can use the services of an attorney to file a lien against the offender’s home. Usually the threat of filing a lien will get payment and future compliance from most. For the cases where a member is willing to squander money in court to defend his actions, the board should consider a compromise. Spending thousands of HOA dollars in court to enforce a rule makes little sense.
Question: Our HOA has no satellite dish installation policy. The board has received requests to approve such installations but seems to be at a loss on a policy.
Answer: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Regulations require that homeowner associations allow satellite dishes but allow the HOA to control where they are placed as long as the location(s) afford adequate signal. Those approved locations should take into consideration curb appeal and maintenance concerns like damage done by screwing hardware to siding or roofs. Sometimes the best solution is to erect a pole to which multiple dishes can be attached on the roof or a shielded-from-the-street location of common area. While this still would be unsightly, at least it would centralize the issue and maintain the HOA’s control over it.
Question: The board is reviewing our sign policy. Our governing documents allow for sale or for rent signs. But there is also a need to have a policy for political, garage sale signs, yard decorations and flags. Any advice?
Answer: The main purpose of sign, decoration and flag restrictions is to limit the number, size, number, theme and longevity of them. Yard decorations are not signs but can be garish, tasteless and long lasting. Holiday decorations can certainly be garish as well but are short lived like political signs (usually). Flags can come in many forms but the US flag has federal protections. Others are subject to board rules.
It’s best to have a sign, flag and decoration philosophy rather than an extensive list of acceptable or unacceptable items. The philosophy should stress curb appeal and good taste. Since we all know that some lack good taste, the board may need to intercede on a case by case basis and may need to compromise when confronted by an intractable resident rather than squander precious emotional and financial resources trying to enforce the rules.
One thing is clear, the HOA has the right to control what is placed in the common area which includes the building exterior surface which includes most common wall communities. These issues can produce volatile responses so the board needs to be willing to be flexible.
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