This is a follow-up to one of our recent blogs (July 2, 2014) on homeowner violation letters which sparked some interest (we love it when that happens!). It is important to remember that community rules are NOT about regulating behavior, but protecting everyone’s enjoyment of their homes along with protecting home values.
With this in mind, here is a review of one recent violation we faced. The issue: a nanny parking overnight in the street rather than in the driveway, creating a safety hazard. The homeowner only responded once things progressed to the fining phase of the process. Although the fine notification provided for a 15-day response period to request a hearing before the Board, the homeowner waited over 45 days to respond.
Rather than working in a conciliatory manner, the homeowner launched into a series of charges about management misconduct (i.e. racism, selective enforcement, lack of invoicing):
- The manager and the homeowner are of the same race, quickly quashing the first item. It is a sad commentary that this is a frequent allegation. Regardless of race, managers are too busy to indulge in hateful behavior that only increases their own work and stress.
- The transaction log for the latest two months revealed that compliance notices had been issued to over 200 homes (over 25%) of the community for various issues. Of the 200+ notices sent, approximately 40% went to homeowners with delinquent assessment balances. The homeowner obligation to pay assessments is separate from obligations to the community regulations, and should never be a factor in who receives a citation. The result of our review indicated targeted inspections were not occurring.
- Finally, the governing documents did not call for invoicing of fines, and a standard practice for our region of the country is to provide ongoing reminders via monthly late notices.
The homeowner followed up with demands for specifics on the dates and times of the presence of a parked vehicle, and which Board members had noted and forwarded the information to the management company. The purpose of a violation Board hearing is to permit an opportunity to provide evidence and witnesses to dispute citations. This forum covers things such as documented violation times. Due to the staleness of the request for a hearing (30+ days past the deadline) the Board opted to not revisit the matter.
Although authority solely rests with the Board on fining matters, the homeowner continued to vilify the management company after all of the above was shared. Daily email insults only built a stronger case against the homeowner, and if litigation ensues these will be submitted as evidence. Homeowners also often forget that, one way or another, all the legal costs are paid for by the homeowners. Either the violator pays individually, or he and his neighbors pay via community assessments. The only party that wins in a lawsuit is the attorney.
Side note: Fines that are of a continuing nature do not require repeated daily monitoring/inspections. Once the fining stage has been reached, the onus shifts to homeowner to come forward and confirm that the violation has been addressed. Once the Association verifies, fines stop. At that point, the Board has the option to remove some or all of the fines that have accumulated. How the homeowner has approached the situation is a key factor on whether waivers occur. Belligerence is expensive.
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