Don’t Be the HOA Bad Guy: 4 Proven Policy Enforcement Tips
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“How can we enforce policies in a way that is fair, polite and doesn’t make us the ENEMY?”
Enforcing HOA policies is nobody’s cup of tea, but having good policy enforcement in place not only helps your association run smoothly, but can improve the overall resident experience and elevate your reputation among neighboring communities.
First things first … make sure your policies are right for your community and reflect your association’s vision. Start here: Before Creating a New HOA Policy, Ask These 5 Questions.
After you’ve created a great policy, how can you ensure compliance (without becoming the bad guy)? The good news is that the task of policy enforcement shouldn’t fall entirely on your shoulders. Ultimately, it’s your management company’s job to enforce the rules. But with that in mind, it’s important to partner with your HOA management company and follow these 4 principles for healthy policy enforcement:
Policy Enforcement Tip #1: EDUCATE
As mentioned in our policy creation piece, communication and education is key when it comes to compliance. Make sure that everyone in your association (including new residents) knows the what, how and (most importantly) why of your policy:
- What is the policy?
- How do we follow the policy?
- Why is this policy important for the association?
Work with your management company to distribute this message. They can help you utilize multiple channels, including newsletters, social media, your community’s website, emails and announcements in common areas. You should also develop an orientation guide that will educate new residents on your policies, helping avoid confusion.
Policy Enforcement Tip #2: STAY CONSISTENT
Consistent and fair policy enforcement is key to ensuring that your HOA doesn’t become the enemy with residents and owners. No one wants to be a part of an association where certain residents or board members get special privileges when it comes to observing policies. This practice can create bitterness among other residents and soil your reputation in the community at large. In the worst cases, it can even result in discrimination lawsuits.
So how do you ensure consistent policy enforcement? Start with these simple do’s and don’ts:
- DO: Lead by example. If you expect residents to follow a policy, you should do the same. Volunteer board members are not exempt from the rules.
- DON’T: Change your rules based on circumstances or individuals. While it may appear to make things easier in the short term, it can create problems in the long term.
- DO: Enforce policies when rules are violated. If residents assume they’ll be able to get away with breaking the rules, they will. Make sure you are enforcing policies according to a process set in place (see TRANSPARENCY below).
As mentioned previously, consistent policy enforcement is the job of your management company. But it’s your job to partner with them and other board members to ensure that it is being done fairly and consistently. Your reputation as a board and as an association depends on it.
Policy Enforcement Tip #3: BE TRANSPARENT
Your method of policy enforcement shouldn’t come as a surprise to members of your association. In addition to understanding the what, how, and why of the policy itself, residents should also understand what happens (and what to do) when a policy is violated. They should also understand what the potential fines will be and how they will be collected. Do you have a transparent enforcement process in place? Here’s an example of what that looks like:
- Step 1: Individual in violation of a policy receives a courtesy call explaining the details of the situation and the policy that was violated.
- Step 2: Individual receives a violation letter, providing details on the policy and the offense as well as any fines required.
- Step 3: If individual does not respond after a period of time, a second violation letter is sent.
- Step 4: Upon refusal to comply after three communications, issue will be escalated to association attorney or violation committee for next steps.
It’s important to note that your process may differ from the above based on best practices, different communication methods and state law. For instance, according to Arizona Revised Statutes, a fine can be imposed on a member of the HOA only after a notice is provided and after the member is given an opportunity to be heard. Work with your management company to ensure that you are abiding by best practices and in accordance with your governing documents and local laws.
Policy Enforcement Tip #4: EVALUATE
Even if you have a strong community vision in place, things change. The policies that your association had in place 5 years ago, may not be relevant anymore. That’s why it’s important to review your HOA policies on an annual basis. When reviewing policies, work with your association attorney and management company and ask the following questions:
- Has Arizona state legislature passed any laws that invalidate this policy?
- Does this policy improve resident lifestyles and/or enhance our reputation?
- Will this policy become outdated in the next year or two?
- Does this policy remain relevant for residents and owners?
If you do revise or remove any existing policies, make sure you educate residents about the change and explain the reasoning behind it. As mentioned previously, transparency and consistency is key when it comes to policies.