How to Manage HOA Disputes

Homeowners associations are common in many areas and various types of development. The homeowners association, or “HOA,” is the governing body of the subdivision or complex. However, there are times when individual or multiple homeowners have a legal dispute with the HOA. Several options may be available to help resolve such disputes.

Obligations of the Parties

When a person buys real property in an area governed by the association, he or she automatically becomes a member of the association. He or she is usually responsible for paying dues. These funds typically cover common areas to the community, including swimming pools, golf courses rec centers, sidewalks and walking paths. Each homeowner must abide by the covenants, conditions and restrictions, which may include provisions regarding acceptable exterior paint colors, pet rules, exterior aesthetic rules and other such provisions regarding the homeowner and the property.

Many homeowners associations are comprised of a governing board. Some associations work more like a democracy in which each person has an equal vote when an issue arises. The HOA is responsible for managing the dues that are paid in. It may also help resolve disputes between neighbors so that they do not actually have to interact with each other. Homeowners associations may also make it possible for homeowners to enjoy more luxurious amenities. Another advantage of an HOA is that it can help stabilize property value because one homeowner may not see his or her property decline in value due to the appearance of an unsightly neighboring home.

Types of Disputes

There are a variety of disputes that may arise in this context. An individual homeowner may be given a citation for violating the HOA rules and be fined. He or she may disagree with the imposition of the fine or the interpretation of the rule that he or she is alleged to have broken. This situation can arise if the homeowner paints his or her home a different color than that permitted in the HOA rules if the homeowner is found to have included tasteless yard decorations in his or her yard, if a homeowner is included signs regarding political agendas or for other violations of HOA rules.

Another dispute may arise when the HOA attempts to impose a rule that is not actually included in the HOA covenants. If the homeowner believes that the HOA is overstepping its bounds, such a dispute may arise. Similarly, issues may arise when the HOA rules are only imposed on some residents but not others, giving rise to claims of favoritism.

Since the HOA collects dues, another type of dispute that may arise is if the members of the association believe that the funds are not being properly managed. If a need arises and the members have already paid dues but then are required to pay to fix this new need, the members may collectively have a dispute against the HOA.

Sometimes the dispute is between two neighbors who are both part of the association. The HOA may handle disputes between neighbors and be able to successfully resolve it.

Dispute Resolution

In the covenants, the homeowners association may require that homeowners participate in mediation in good faith in order to resolve any legal disputes that arise. Others may simply encourage arbitration. What is unique about these types of disputes is that they usually involve parties that must continue some sort of relationship after the dispute is resolved.

In some situations, the aggrieved property owner may sue the HOA, which is usually a separate legal entity. The court may order the HOA to specific performance, usually to obey the rules that it already laid out. In other instances, it may impose an injunction in which the HOA is instructed not to participate in certain activities.

Individuals who are involved in HOA disputes may wish to discuss the legal issues with a real estate lawyer in order to determine what their options are.

About Stefan McHardy: Stefan is a Florida licensed attorney, real estate agent and a foreclosure auction investment specialist.  He practices in the areas of real estate, foreclosure, business litigation, and contract law from his Pembroke Pines and Miami Beach offices.  He frequently consults on general real estate and investing matters.  You can find out more about Stefan at DSALegalGroup.com/stefan or by visiting StefanMcHardy.com