Homeowner association attorneys can be what ensures the health of your community. Board members often have a complicated relationship with governing documents, local ordinances, and state laws — aspects that an HOA attorney can navigate effectively. Having a lawyer that you can trust on hand for every situation can also help maintain peace with the association. Here are the benefits of retaining an HOA lawyer as well as six important things to consider during the hiring process.
What Are the Benefits of Retaining an HOA Attorney?
The best way to know if you need an HOA attorney is to see how they will be able to help your community. Here are the benefits of having an HOA attorney.
1. Specific Knowledge Base
Although it’s possible to have board members who are experts in community management, the more likely scenario is that you have a group of volunteers who are passionate but not professionally trained. It can be daunting to navigate the intricacies of federal and local housing laws, CC&Rs and bylaws, and other community rules and regulations. Hiring an HOA attorney with specialized knowledge can take the load off the shoulders of the board.
2. Preparation of Governing Documents
Your community will not be able to function properly without governing documents. CC&Rs, bylaws, rules and regulations are crucial in maintaining peace and order in your association. Governing documents are subject to federal, state, and local ordinances.
It can be difficult for the board to prepare these documents without adequate knowledge of community association and housing laws. HOA attorneys will be the one to prepare these documents and review them for the board.
3. Protection and Legal Representation
It’s important to have protection in the event that a homeowner seeks legal action against the HOA. Likewise, an HOA attorney also acts as a legal representative for the association when dealing with delinquent homeowners and negligent vendors or contractors. Lawsuits and HOA problems are unfortunate but something that the board should always anticipate in advance.
When dealing with disputes, an HOA attorney can also act as a buffer between the board and the residents or service providers. This keeps tensions from becoming too strong and helps promote a happier community.
4. Legal Consultation
Your HOA’s governing documents should be clear and comprehensive, but sometimes situations arise that a board may not know how to handle. Discrimination or harassment cases are also delicate and complex, so the board should tread carefully.
In order to make the right decisions, the board can consult with an HOA attorney. With proper legal advice, the board will be able to resolve community-related disputes.
5. Rule Enforcement and Assessment Collection
It can be difficult to effectively enforce HOA rules and regulations, especially if you have a large community. An HOA attorney can help the board deal with enforcement issues as well as collection overdue assessments.
6 Things to Consider When You Hire an HOA Lawyer
The process of hiring an HOA lawyer can be very time-consuming and labor-intensive. To ensure that the process goes smoothly, here are five important things to consider.
1. Your Community’s Needs
Before you start looking for an HOA attorney, think about your community’s legal needs. Do you have a small association that only deals with legal matters from time to time? Or, are you a large community that seems to deal with legal issues each week? Knowing your legal needs can help shape expectations for your prospective HOA attorney and the services they will provide.
2. Check the Location
There will be many HOA attorneys to choose from, but make sure to choose one that is easily accessible. Search the local Community Associations Institute directory to find a list of lawyers in your area. You can also search the web for nearby attorneys or law firms.
If you are in the Carolinas, use search terms like “HOA attorney near me” or “HOA attorney in Charlotte NC.”
3. Use Criteria to Narrow Your Search
Once you have found qualified candidates, it’s time to conduct interviews to determine who will best fit your community. Try to search for an HOA attorney who has more than five years of experience in handling disputes within HOAs.
The candidate should have a thorough knowledge of matters that are relevant to your community, such as legal and financial needs.
4. Consider Your Budget
An HOA attorney will be a significant expense for your community. However, your money will be well-spent considering the legal expertise and protection that the lawyer will provide to the HOA. You should still consider the association’s budget to see if you are able to afford an HOA attorney that charges by the hour or someone that has a prearranged price. See what services are provided to determine the HOA attorney that will give you the best bang for the buck.
5. Establish Trust and Confidence
Your HOA attorney will be handling a wide range of legal issues on the board’s behalf. Thus, it’s crucial to establish trust and confidence in that person.
The lawyer should always look out for the community’s best interests as well as be honest and transparent when it comes to all the community matters they handle. Having an HOA attorney can lessen the board’s anxiety and provide each member with peace of mind.
6. Talk to Your Management Company
Most management companies will have a list of attorneys that specialize in community association law and can you take on as a client. They may be able to recommend attorneys or firms that already have considerable experience when handling HOAs. Your HOA manager can also assist you throughout the hiring process.
Find the Right HOA Attorney for Your Community
Finding the right HOA attorney can be difficult. You may have to devote a lot of time and effort, but it is extremely important to find someone who will help keep the peace in your community, protect the association, and be a valuable part of your HOA. When choosing an HOA attorney, keep in mind these important considerations, and you’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits that come with having an HOA attorney on your side.