You’ve seen it more times than you can count: rebellious homeowners living on the edge (or over the edge) of the HOA rules. While “rebellious” is probably a strong word in most cases, you are faced with a dilemma either way. You have to enforce HOA rules, but you don’t want to seem like the neighborhood rent-a-cop.

Perhaps doing your job would be a little easier if you understood why people skirt the rules. Are they daring you to stop them, or are they simply not well informed? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons homeowners might be breaking — or at least bending — the rules.

  • Poor Communication — It’s possible that not all HOA members are clear on what the rules are; especially if they’re new. This is one of the reasons why good communication is so important.
  • Poor Enforcement — If your organization has a history of not enforcing the rules, it will be difficult to change course and get people to buy in. It takes time, but the more lenient you are, the more problems you are likely to have — and they’re contagious among homeowners. (“If Joe can leave his holiday lights up for ‘Christmas in July’ then so can I.”)
  • Inconsistent Enforcement — Enforcement must apply to all homeowners, all the time. If people see inconsistency, they’ll probably think they can get away with a lot of stuff.
  • “Irrational” Rules — As an HOA, you do your best to ensure rules are rational and enforceable. If a certain rule is consistently broken by many, it could be time to examine it closer. Or, perhaps you have an irrational homeowner on your hands (in which case, may the force be with you).
  • Complex Rules — If your rules state that quiet hours begin at 10pm on Wednesdays, but 11pm on Saturdays and every third Monday and bank holiday, people will have a hard time keeping track of all the nuances. The more clear-cut your rules are, the easier they’ll be to understand and enforce.
  • Too Many Changes — If rules have changed or are frequently tweaked, it’s hard to expect everyone to keep up. Try to keep rules as constant as possible, and communicate any changes clearly and repeatedly.

It’s super frustrating when homeowners defy the rules. But more often than not, it’s some kind of misunderstanding or personal circumstance that puts people outside the law. The best thing you can do as a manager is ensure rules are simple, consistently enforce HOA rules, and clearly communicated.

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