Roger Wood of Carpenter Hazelwood in Arizona, just posted an article about a common problem facing Homeowners Association Boards in the current economic climate. This is an issue we have experienced here in California as well. He calls it “Enforcement-Phobia”. According to Roger, “Enforcement-Phobia” is the chronic fear of the political, financial and social costs of taking action to enforce an Association’s governing documents.
The “disease” starts when directors and managers are blind to the real conditions of properties overgrown with weeds, cluttered with unapproved architectural changes and overrun with over-sized vehicles parking on too narrow, private streets. The neglected home may be the source of great frustration in the neighborhood, but the Board responds with lackluster empathy and empty pockets. The deeper the disease digs into communities the less inclined an Association and its leaders are to take any action. Symptoms of owner neglect and Association ignorance of that neglect lead only to more neglect.
The key to treating the “Enforcement Phobia” is to realize that the CC&Rs, as well as the rules and regulations, are in place to uphold property values. Failing to enforce them is a disservice to the community. As Roger points out, a Board has the power (and in Arizona and California at least, the legal obligation) to enforce the express terms of the association’s governing documents. The disease can be stopped and the vicious spread of unresolved CC&R violations curtailed. The cure for this phobia is simple to enforce the association’s documents. Roger offers some good prescriptions for helping your community properly enforce its restrictions and to gain an owner’s compliance. Among them are:
- Be fair and consistent in your approach to inspecting properties and notifying owners about their violations;
- Have a comprehensive enforcement policy and follow it;
- If a particular CC&R provision is troublesome or universally unenforceable, amend it;
- Think about increasing fine amounts to levels that would deter owners from continuing CC&R violations;
- Communicate well and often with homeowners about violations and about the path to compliance; and
- Use self-help (if allowed by the CC&Rs) thoughtfully.
You can read the full article here.