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Will previous leniency affect your right to enforce HOA rules?

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2022 | Homeowners' Associations

As someone who helps run the homeowners association (HOA) for your community, you are in an uncomfortable position. The rules that you must enforce affect your neighbors and people that you care about, which can make your job difficult.

Although you may feel tempted to extend leniency when one person violates HOA rules because you know the reason why, doing so could be a significant mistake. Inconsistent rule enforcement could potentially open the door to accusations of discrimination even if that was not the motivation behind the uneven enforcement of the HOA rules.

There are a million reasons why you may want to be lenient

HOA regulations aim to keep the community attractive and safe, so they often include certain maintenance requirements, like keeping the lawn a certain length and removing any branches brought down by a storm shortly afterward. HOAs sometimes limit how long people can leave their trash receptacles out on the curb or how many vehicles can park on the street when they have a social gathering.

You may not want to send an enforcement letter to a neighbor whose lawn has overgrown because they have been home sick from work for a month, just like you don’t want to send an enforcement letter to someone who has too many vehicles on the street because they hosted a wake for their spouse at their home. However, if you fail to enforce the rules even in those unpleasant situations, when you later need to enforce them, someone could use your previous kindness against you.

Consistent enforcement is key to your power as an HOA

Once you start letting things slide for certain people, everyone will expect the same leniency. In fact, some people might start to take advantage of the uneven enforcement, prompting you to send them a letter or even find them.

If those people documented your history of non-enforcement, they could potentially convince the courts that your enforcement efforts against them are discriminatory. If the courts rule in their favor, you may not be able to compel them into compliance or even force them to pay the fines they owe the HOA.

Prioritizing consistent HOA rule enforcement helps you maintain your legal authority in the community.