Fines for HOA violations are a standard means of enforcement. They’re effective at keeping residents in line and ensuring the community is orderly. However, there are certain caveats homeowners associations must understand when imposing HOA violation fines.
What Are Fines for HOA Violations?
HOA violation fines are essentially monetary penalties for breaking HOA rules. Most homeowners associations levy fines for HOA violations to discourage future offenses. It’s a good way to enforce the governing documents and keep residents in check without taking legal action.
Some may argue that simple warning letters are enough to deter future violations. This might be true as they often get the job done. However, fines can be more effective at ensuring compliance as homeowners are less likely to violate the rules if there’s a monetary loss involved.
Each homeowners association has different policies for HOA violation fees. Some impose light fines, while others impose heavier penalties. Nonetheless, the governing documents usually outline a homeowners association’s authority to impose fines and specific fine policies.
Are Fines for HOA Violations Enforceable?
Can an HOA impose fines? Yes, homeowners associations are generally allowed to impose fines if they’re granted the power to do so in the governing documents. Some governing documents explicitly grant this ability, while others are more implicit.
However, it’s usually best for homeowners associations to adopt standard procedures for imposing fines. For example, most HOA boards will begin enforcement by sending a violation warning letter—HOAs often only fine residents after the second offense.
Some HOA boards may also impose fines if the homeowner doesn’t rectify the issue. For example, let’s say the community has fence rules that prohibit fences altogether. The board may eventually impose a fine if the homeowner refuses to remove a fence they built.
Moreover, some state laws may require specific procedures before an HOA can impose fines. They may require a hearing before the board can levy a monetary penalty. The board may also need to send the violator an advance notice with all the violation details and a hearing. For instance, California law dictates that the board must notify the violating member 10 days before they meet to impose discipline on said member.
Can Homeowners Fight Fines for HOA Violations?
Generally speaking, it’s in the homeowner’s best interest to comply with and pay for HOA violation fines. This is true when they indeed have violated the rules and the HOA has followed due process. However, what if the fines are unreasonable or the situation is unfairly handled? Can the homeowners fight against these fines?
There are times when the residents can fight against HOA fines. Firstly, homeowners can challenge the HOA board if they do not have the authority to impose fines according to the governing documents or state law. According to the governing documents, they may also fight against the fine if the violation is not valid.
Secondly, homeowners may have the grounds for an appeal according to the HOA’s enforcement procedure. In this case, they may plead their case with the HOA board. The specifics of the appeal process will vary from HOA to HOA. Some may require arbitration or mediation. Regardless, both parties will need to present proof to back their case.
Thirdly, homeowners may challenge the decision if the HOA does not follow due process. For example, the governing documents might require the HOA board to deliver a warning letter for first offenses. The homeowner may contest the board if the HOA went straight to imposing fines.
Finally, homeowners associations must typically levy fines that are reasonable and justified. It would be too much for an HOA to impose a fine of $1,000 for a first-offense violation regarding improper trash bin placement.
This is why some states or governing documents impose restrictions or limits on HOA fines. Homeowners may take legal action against the HOA in these instances. Therefore, HOAs should be careful with the amount they impose on homeowners.
Can HOA Fine You Without Proof?
Homeowners associations should provide evidence of the violation before they can impose fines. Otherwise, homeowners may freely contest the decision. It may also be difficult for them to back up their claim during arbitration or in case the homeowner takes legal action.
Can an HOA Fine You Without a Warning?
On some occasions, homeowners associations may be allowed to fine their members without issuing a warning. However, more often than not, the board must send a violation notice or HOA fine letter beforehand.
Can You Ignore HOA Fines?
Homeowners may be tempted to ignore a fine for an HOA violation. This is especially true when they feel the rule is silly or unnecessary. However, ignoring fines is a bad idea.
This is because fines can escalate. Homeowners may incur even more fines in the process. They may even be fined for each day the violation persists. This can snowball and quickly become a huge debt to the association. Depending on local or state laws, It may constitute a lien on their home and lead to foreclosure.
Homeowners associations can also turn to court to force the members to comply. The board can take the case to a small claims court to collect the unpaid fines. They may also file a lawsuit with the superior court. This may be costly and time-consuming, but it is not unheard of.
How Much Are Fines for HOA Violations?
Fines should not be too low as they might be seen as a fee for the right to violate the rules. However, they should also not be excessive as it would be unreasonable. HOAs should remember that fines are not a means of earning money. The members should be able to pay the fines back.
A good range for fines falls around the $25 to $50 range per violation. However, the amount should vary based on the cost of living and specific community. In upscale neighborhoods, $50 might be too negligible to be called a fine. Meanwhile, other communities might already find it too burdensome.
In addition, homeowners associations must adhere to state laws regarding imposing fines. Some may restrict the daily limit to $100, while others have a lower or higher maximum.
A Common Means of Enforcement
Fines for HOA violations are common. Homeowners associations use them quite often to ensure compliance. However, given the monetary nature of this enforcement vehicle, HOAs should be careful about how they impose fines. They should follow due process, review their governing documents, and comply with relevant laws.
Is your community struggling to impose the right fines for HOA violations? Elite Management Services can help. We offer industry-leading management services to homeowners associations. Call us now at (855) 238-8488 or contact us online to learn more!
- 3 Main HOA Maintenance Responsibilities
- How To Fill A Vacancy In The HOA Board
- Can Homeowners And Renters Attend HOA Meetings?