Homeowner association complaints are common in any planned community. However, not all of them are directed to the board or the association. Most of the time, homeowners’ complaints are directed towards their neighbors or other members of the community. While neighbor disputes do not always involve or require action from the association, it’s still important to establish procedures to effectively deal with these HOA complaints.
What Are the Most Common HOA Complaints?
All homeowners have the freedom to enjoy their property, as well as the amenities provided by the HOA. Not everyone has the same idea of what this freedom entails, though. To maintain peace and order, the association enforces rules and regulations that can be found in the governing documents.
Even then, disputes between neighbors can still occur. Neighbor disputes are very common. It can be due to simple misunderstandings between homeowners and thus, they can be easily resolved. However, in some cases, neighbor disputes can be caused by nuisance behavior.
HOA Nuisance Definition and Nuisance Provisions
In real estate law, nuisance is a legal action that intends to remedy the harm that is caused by the use of one’s property. It typically involves acts or behaviors that are considered offensive, irritating, and/or obstructive. There are two types of nuisance: private and public.
In the context of HOAs, a private nuisance is defined as an activity that significantly interferes with homeowners’ rights to quiet enjoyment. Under the covenant of quiet enjoyment, property owners are entitled to privacy, peace and quiet, and safety and security in their own homes.
On the other hand, if the activity in question is a threat to the health, safety, comfort, and welfare of the entire community, it is considered a public nuisance. If a nuisance is both private and public, it is referred to as a mixed nuisance.
Examples of HOA Nuisances
Here are the most common nuisances that may take place in an HOA community.
HOAs receive a lot of complaints from homeowners about the noise coming from their neighbors’ houses.
It could be because the neighbor is playing loud music at night, hosting a rowdy and out-of-control party, or has a dog that is barking incessantly.
Some homeowners either forget or intentionally disregard the pet policies of their HOA.
Concerned homeowners may then file complaints against the offending homeowner due to improper disposal of pet waste, aggressive pet behaviors, or leaving their pet unleashed/unsupervised.
A lot of people choose to raise their families in an HOA community. Thus, homeowners are sensitive to the needs and behaviors of children, especially when it comes to recreation. However, complaints start to pour in if children are excessively unruly or noisy, or are already causing physical damage to property.
4. Home Exteriors
To preserve property values in the community, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the exteriors of their homes. Thus, homeowners will start to complain if they see neighbors’ houses with:
- unkempt lawns
- overflowing trash cans
- overdue holiday decorations
- offensive flags or signs
Not all HOAs can accommodate parking for both homeowners and their guests. Disputes can occur if a particular neighbor and his/her guests take up most of the parking space. There may also be complaints about homeowners who improperly park their vehicles on the street, among other parking issues.
Homeowners can be very protective of the boundaries of their property. They will complain if their neighbor starts encroaching upon their property. Disputes may also occur if a neighbor starts building a fence or structure that is already on the homeowner’s property.
Depending on your HOA, smoking may be banned in common areas. Homeowners may also be prohibited from smoking outside their homes, such as in the yard or patio.
8. Health Code Violations
Homeowners will be quick to complain if their neighbor’s property is already violating health codes. Common HOA complaints may be due to pest infestations, noxious smells, strong cooking odors, and other unsanitary conditions.
9. Illegal Activity
For the safety and wellbeing of the entire community, homeowners should file a complaint if they witness or suspect their neighbor engaging in illegal or criminal activities such as drug dealing and gambling.
Harassing or discriminatory behaviors should also be reported.
How to Deal with HOA Complaints
Associations are not always directly involved when it comes to HOA complaints against neighbors. However, it is their responsibility to maintain peace and order within the community.
To tamp down HOA noxious activity, the board must strictly enforce rules and regulations. Nuisance restrictions are also put in place to discourage disputes between neighbors. Since you cannot completely eliminate neighbor disputes, though, here are some tips on how to handle HOA complaints in your community.
- Enforce HOA Rules Strictly and Uniformly: To discourage nuisance behaviors, the HOA should make it clear that homeowners who violate HOA rules and regulations will be fined or receive the appropriate sanctions.
- Address HOA Complaints Promptly: A prompt response to HOA complaint letters will help prevent neighbor disputes from escalating. When exchanges become heated, homeowners may resort to harassment or violence. If the situation calls for it, the HOA should intervene to prevent lawsuits and liabilities.
- Send a Notice of Violation to Offending Homeowners: Some homeowners are not aware that they have violated the community rules and regulations. Sending a notice of violation informs them of their violation and gives them the opportunity to correct the violation. All homeowners have a right to a hearing before receiving fines or sanctions.
- Offer to Mediate Between Homeowners: If the dispute between two homeowners continues, the HOA can invite them to an alternative dispute resolution. The HOA hires a third-party evaluator to mediate and resolve the issue. The costs will then be split between the homeowners and the HOA. Despite additional costs, mediation is a great way to resolve long-lasting disputes or prevent disputes from escalating.
- Know When to Step In: The HOA doesn’t have to be involved in each and every neighbor dispute. However, if the dispute involves harassment or discrimination, the HOA is legally obligated to step in. Even if there has been no official HOA complaint yet, if the board is aware of such behaviors, they should immediately take action.
- Consult Your HOA Manager and Attorney: Neighbor disputes can be tricky to deal with. If you want to reduce the liability of the HOA, consult your manager and attorney any time that you have to deal with an HOA complaint. This ensures that you are taking the proper steps to resolve the issue.
Deal with HOA Complaints to Protect the Entire Community
Even though a dispute is between two neighbors, there is a potential for it to escalate and affect the entire community. Homeowners may start to take sides based on preexisting relationships or based on how they lean towards a certain issue.
To maintain peace and order within the community, board members should try to address HOA complaints as quickly as possible. It’s also important to enforce rules consistently so that homeowners will learn to comply, as well.
If you are a self-managed community who needs help dealing with HOA complaints, consider the benefits of hiring a management company like the Cedar Management Group. We assist communities with HOA complaints as well as other essential day-to-day activities. Give us a call at (877) 252-3327 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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