How Can You Deal With An Over-The-Top Homeowners Association Member?

Homeowners associations (HOAs) can provide many benefits to a home and community -- in fact, homes that are part of an HOA often have higher resale values than similar homes in the area. However, in some cases, an overzealous HOA member may become a nuisance to its area's residents. Read on to learn more about the powers an HOA board can have, as well as how you can fight back if you feel one of your HOA's board members is overstepping his or her bounds.

What is an HOA?

A homeowners association is a type of corporation that is formed by the owner-developer of a subdivision or other tract of real estate. As lots in the subdivision are sold to homeowners, individual HOA rights are transferred. These HOA rights give you a vote in the management and mini-government of your neighborhood, usually by representative voting through a central board. Many HOA boards will exercise responsibility for neighborhood features such as curfews or "quiet hours," trash pickup, snow removal, creation of designated pet areas or parks, and standards relating to the cleanliness and beauty of your neighborhood. In some situations, in exchange for monthly dues, an HOA will handle any of the exterior or landscaping maintenance your home needs.

What powers does an HOA board have?

Because home ownership changes frequently and some neighborhoods have hundreds of residents, most HOA decisions are made by a central board, composed of members who are appointed or voted in. This board is responsible for making planning decisions, assessing costs, and enforcing the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CCR) agreement. The contents of this agreement can vary by HOA, but most will set out the monthly or annual dues payments, the neighborhood appearance, health, and safety requirements, and the HOA's responsibilities.

In some situations, one or more board members may become overly involved in the more minute details of the CCR agreement. In some extreme examples, HOA board members have been seen measuring the length of a blade of grass in a homeowner's lawn (to ensure compliance with the lawnmowing requirements) or sending out "brown grass" violation notices during a drought.

What can you do if you believe an HOA board member is being unreasonable in their enforcement?

First, ensure that you have a copy of the CCR agreement. You should have signed this document at the closing of your home. If you never signed a CCR agreement, you may not be bound by its rules -- however, you'll likely want to consult with an attorney to determine your legal rights and obligations.

Next, talk to your neighbors. If others have received violation notices or observed similar behavior, you may wish to attend your next HOA board meeting to voice your thoughts and see if a solution can be reached. In most cases, when residents band together to speak out against perceived abusive behavior, HOA boards are quick to act. An HOA, like Cornerstone Properties Inc, is only as strong as its residents, and governing boards have a strong incentive to ensure the happiness of their neighborhood homeowners.