A homeowners’ association board of directors is tasked to make sure that all its residents are happy with the way they live. That’s why they enforce rules and regulations – to get homeowners to conform. However, what HOAs don’t understand is that it isn’t a one-way street. They might be in power, but homeowners also have the power to sue them.
Why do we need homeowners’ associations?
A homeowners’ association (HOA) is composed of the residents of a specific community. Each person that has a house in that community is automatically considered part of the homeowners’ association. There are around 370,000 HOAs in the United States, and they are often found in condominium communities (called a condominium owners’ association or COA) and neighborhoods with single-family houses.
The HOA’s activities are overseen by an HOA board of directors that creates and enforces rules that its members must abide by. The role of the HOA board is to make sure that members aren’t breaking the rules. The board is also responsible for preserving property values by maintaining the attractiveness of the community.
What are the responsibilities of the HOA board of directors?
Before we dive into whether or not you can sue your HOA, let’s look at the tasks that the HOA board is obligated to do:
#1 Upkeep of common areas
The HOA board of directors is responsible for the upkeep of common areas, like parks, clubhouses, and pools. It isn’t limited to maintaining the aesthetics, but also to ensuring the safety of its members.
For instance, it’s the HOA board’s job – not the residents’ – to find a contractor to repair the air conditioner in the clubhouse. Someone from the HOA board will need to shop around for a vendor that provides repair services at a reasonable rate. Alternatively, the HOA board could partner with an association management company to select from their list of pre-screened contractors.
#2 Handle problems in the neighborhood
There will always be disputes between neighbors. With that said, the HOA board is obligated to manage these issues, such as a neighbor complaining about another neighbor’s late-night noise. It’s worth mentioning that the HOA board should get involved when the neighbors can’t sort things out on their own. The HOA board should also maintain an unbiased view while investigating the issue. In other words, the HOA board has the power to mediate and to fine the offending party if they’re found to have violated the rules.
#3 Handling the finances of the HOA
An HOA board of directors has a treasurer whose role is to handle the association’s finances. Their role includes collecting dues, following fines from residents that fail to pay, and paying third-party contractors. The HOA treasurer also has a big role to play in the preparation of the annual budget, as they likely know how much money the community actually needs. With the budget in hand, the treasurer then has to ensure that the association’s funds are used for what they were intended for.
#4 Creating rules and regulations
At the core of the HOA board’s duties is the creation of rules and regulations, otherwise called the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The HOA creates CC&Rs to ensure that the community remains safe and aesthetically appealing. HOAs are free to enforce their own rules, however, the rules cannot go against the law. If a homeowner finds the rules unlawful, they can challenge the HOA or file a lawsuit against it.
Can you sue the HOA board of directors?
“Can an HOA or COA board of directors be sued?” Yes. If you can be fined by your HOA for going against the CC&Rs, you can sue the HOA for its failure to uphold its duties. In fact, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to file a claim against their homeowners’ association.
Here are some of the reasons why homeowners sue their HOA or COA:
The HOA or COA can create its set of rules, however, it can’t contradict the law. For instance, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects persons in protected classes (e.g. religion, race, color, etc.) from acts of discrimination. For instance, if the association bans you from using certain amenities because of your race, then that would be grounds for filing a lawsuit.
Pro Tip: If you’re renting your property, hire a property management company to screen potential tenants. They’re aware of the FHA and will strictly follow the law. If, however, your HOA wants to screen the tenants on their own without following the FHA, you should consider hiring a litigation lawyer.
Have you ever wondered where your association dues go? HOAs that don’t disclose the association’s finances to their members could be in trouble. Homeowners want to ensure that their dues are being used reasonably. So, if you notice that your HOA board has been going on fancy dinners, you could file a claim for misappropriation.
#3 Architectural Plans
Say you want to build a fence around your property. You seek approval from the HOA but they turn you down because you’d be “breaking the rules and regulations”. You ask your property management company to check the CC&Rs, but the covenants don’t say anything about it. Unfortunately, after challenging the HOA on this, they still won’t budge so in the end, you decide to sue.
As mentioned, the HOA is responsible for the upkeep of the community’s common areas like pools, parks, etc. That’s also why they collect association fees from homeowners – so they can pay for property maintenance. Hence, if your HOA fails or refuses to repair the common areas, you can file a lawsuit to compel them to act. For instance, if the pool’s ladder is broken, the HOA board of directors should hire a repairman ASAP since it’s a safety risk, particularly to kids.
Another reason for suing the HOA board of directors has to do with harassment. If a member of the board abuses their power, the homeowner can file a harassment case against that board member. Harassment can also involve intimidation, which is where a board member tries to deter the resident from continuing to live there.
Before buying a house in a community with an HOA, be sure to find out what their rules are. That way, you can guarantee that you won’t get in trouble with your HOA – or the other way around!
A property management company can help you look into your potential HOA’s rules and regulations to help you make an informed decision. Call Luxury Property Care at (561) 944 – 2992 or contact us online for more information.