6 steps to airtight tracking for HOA violations

Laurie Mega
Laurie Mega | 6 min. read

Published on May 11, 2023

When a resident moves into an HOA or community association, they agree to follow a certain set of rules created by the board of directors. Those rules can cover anything from noise restrictions to the types of flowers they can plant in their front yard. Most certainly, they cover fees and HOA violations.

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As the property manager of an HOA or community association, it’s up to you to issue and track HOA violations in minute detail, and to take legal action against repeat offenders evenhandedly.

To do that, your company will need a clear process that is followed to the letter so that all violations are evenly and fairly applied. Of course, you can set up to record each HOA violation and related documents in a separate file, but wouldn’t it be easier to have everything in one place?

Property management software can help you issue and track violations from complaints to a first warning through legal action (should it be necessary). Still, what’s most critical is the violation process that you build and uphold. Let’s get into the six ways to help you do just that—and use technology along the way to help.

#1: Double Check HOA Rules and HOA Violation Fines for Legality

First and foremost, a lawyer should be looking at all HOA documents to make sure rules, violations, and related fines all comply with federal, state, and local laws. Of course, as the property manager, you should have your own working knowledge of HOA compliance, but the final approval should go through a legal professional.

Many states, for example, require written notice of violations and legal actions being taken against residents. Some even require HOAs to give residents a certain amount of time to remedy a violation or pay a fine.

To comply with the law, use your property management software solution to store templates your lawyer has approved for violation, warnings and notices, as well as notices of liens or legal actions. Send out notices from your software and then track them to ensure enough time is given to both residents and HOAs (more on that in step 4).

#2: Set Up a Formal Process for HOA Violations

To remain in compliance with the law, as well as the bylaws of each HOA you manage, set up a process that’s consistent. To do that, take the following steps:

  • Set Up Consistent Procedures: Use your property management software to issue templated violation notices, as well as to schedule fine payments. HOA violations should never be arbitrary in their timing or their consequences, either. Use your software to make sure your staff issues the same type of violation notice for the same type of violation every time.
  • Establish a Fining System: Work with each board of directors to set up fines that are appropriate for each violation. Some state and local governments have laws outlining limits on HOA violation fines. Whether yours does or not, make sure fines are appropriate for the type of violation. A fine for the wrong type of flowers should not exceed the fee for destruction of pool equipment during a party, for example. You may also want to try and find out fines levied by other community associations or HOAs in the area to make sure your fines are comparable.
  • Document Everything: Make all documents pertaining to HOA rules, bylaws, complaints, violations and processes available to all residents via a cloud storage solution. Set up folders in the resident portal where residents can download everything they need.

#3: Create an HOA Violation Letter Template and Automate HOA Violation Notices

To speed up communication during the violation process, create templates that let you quickly and reliably communicate with residents. You can see an example of these templates here.

Having an HOA violation letter makes automating the violation notices a lot easier, especially if you can access pre-built templates, like those offered in Buildium.

Next, set up an automated system within your software that allows you to trigger a violation notice from either the office or your phone. Use it to issue warnings, fine notices, lien notices, and even notices of legal action.

Again, just make sure your lawyer has looked at and approved your notices and the manner through which you are sending them to residents.

#4: Track HOA Violations in Detail

Creating and sending violations via a mobile app allows property managers to keep HOAs running smoothly. But creating a violation is only half the battle.

Set up the dashboard and create a report within your software solution to track residents with violations and where they are in the process. Do you have residents with multiple outstanding violations where you need to consider a lien? What about first-time offenders who have just a few days left to remedy the situation or pay a fine? You can see all of this via the software and run a report that makes it easy for staff to follow up.

In Buildium’s Analytics & Insights, there’s also an Association Performance Dashboard where association managers can see how long it takes to resolve violations by month across all their properties. They can even drill down for more granular detail when desired.

#5: Encourage Communication Through Portals

An important part of the process is communication between you and your residents. Allow residents to contact you through a resident portal and add it to your tracking to make sure their questions and concerns are addressed.

Through a resident portal, property managers can allow residents to pay their fines online, as well. That makes it easier and quicker to collect money and resolve open violations. A good resident portal will be mobile-friendly, which means residents can pay from anywhere, whenever it’s convenient for them, making it more likely they’ll meet their deadline.

#6: Educate Your Community on Rules and HOA Violation Fines

Of course, the best way to handle HOA violations is to never have to issue them in the first place. Your property management software can help you with that, too.

Keeping the bylaws in a place that’s easily accessible means residents can always refer to them to make sure they’re in compliance, and board members can update them regularly.

Allowing communication via a resident center, whether it be email or text, can help you alert residents to changes in bylaws and answer any questions they may have. You can also discuss possible violations with residents before issuing a formal citation, if it’s something that they can fix easily.

Through your tracking, you can also look for trends in violations. Perhaps a particular non-owner resident has a history of noise violations, and it’s simply a matter of talking to the homeowner once. Perhaps you’re seeing an uptick in landscaping violations across the entire community, and it’s time to go back to the board to review the bylaws.

Whatever it is, your software can help you pinpoint larger issues that you can address with residents or the board of directors to keep violations from happening in the first place.

HOA violations are an essential part of property management with HOAs and community associations. But you can make the process less challenging for your staff and fairer for your residents by opening the lines of communication; making bylaws clear and accessible; and implementing a transparent process through your property management software.

Interested in learning about how property management software can help you stay on top of violations? Check out our webinar on violation tracking in Buildium and this brief guide.

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Laurie Mega

Laurie Mega has planned, written, and edited content on a variety of subjects. Her work has been published by HomeandGarden.com, The Economist, Philips Lifeline, and FamilyEducation, among others. She lives in the Greater Boston Area with her husband and two boys.

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