HOA Covenant Enforcement & Architectural Control

Board members are often put in a position where they have to be the “bad guys”, and when it comes to HOA covenant enforcement and architectural control, there’s no getting around it. All of the homeowners in a community have agreed to the HOA’s covenants when they purchased their properties, and as such, they need to abide by the regulations in place.

Failure to ensure compliance with covenants defeats the purpose of having rules at all. While it’s never easy to reprimand a neighbor, enforcing the HOA’s covenants is a necessary practice.

Enforcing Covenants: How It’s Done

When it comes to handing out punishments for failing to obey regulations, there is a wide range of actions that can be taken by a Board of Directors. It is the Board’s obligation to enforce the covenants in place. However, there is no one way of going about this. Different violations call for different responses, and in some cases the problem may remedy itself without the need for any actions at all.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a lawsuit might be considered necessary if no other solutions brought positive results. An association enforcing covenants may take the following actions:

  • Imposing fines: Most HOAs are authorized to hand out reasonable fines as penalties for violating association covenants. Homeowners must be given notice of the violation and a chance to answer for it before being fined.
  • Filing a lawsuit: The case can go to small claims court (an informal, but legal setting without an attorney) or county court (attorneys can be used and violations costing up to $15,000 can be addressed, as opposed to the $7,000 in small claims).
  • Putting a lien on the property.
  • Fixing the issue themselves by entering the property in order to remedy the violation. Costs associated with this action would be charged to the owner.
  • Suspending privileges and services if permitted by an HOA’s declaration.
  • Mediation or arbitration, which can be pursued instead of a lawsuit, and would be done with the aid of a mediating third party.
  • Calling the police, which would be done in cases where the breach is also a violation of city code. Actions that can be characterized as criminal behavior could also warrant the assistance of law enforcement.

Covenant Enforcement in Relation to Architectural Control

A big part of covenant enforcement is related to the architectural components of a community; most of the homeowners associations in the United States feature some variation of an architectural review committee. These committees can differ from one association to the next, but for the most part, they all strive to maintain certain levels of balance and uniformity in their communities.

Property owners typically need to get approved by these committees before doing exterior work on their homes. While some people might believe this to be a violation of their freedom, architectural control serves as a means for protecting property values in the community as well as maintaining a harmonious design throughout.

In some instances, homeowners have found themselves at odds with architectural review committees. However, keep in mind that by moving into the community, a unit owner has agreed to the rules and regulations regarding their property’s exterior. Even if a person disagrees with the concept of maintaining visual uniformity, ignoring the rules isn’t an option.

That being said, there have been cases of architectural control committees that focused on minor violations to the point of losing sight of common sense.  Unnecessary legal actions can result from this kind of behavior, prompting a waste of time and resources. Remember, the Board, not just the homeowners, must be willing to compromise. Being able to sit down with a unit owner to work out issues can go a long way, and overall, architectural review committees must be willing to enforce the rules while also remaining flexible and reasonable.

HOA Covenant enforcement and architectural control will never rank at the top of anyone’s list of favorite hobbies, but they are an essential part of community association living. Understanding them, and how to best apply them to your specific situation, is critically important. If you need more information, our team at Ardent Residential is available to answer any questions you might have, so contact us today.