Homeowners associations exist for the principal purpose of protecting property values within a community. Obviously there are a multitude of components that go into accomplishing that goal, with some being significantly more important than others. From ensuring that the exterior of homes are not painted a color not approved by the board, to contracting with waste management companies, to safely and efficiently removing garbage from the community, there is a laundry list of things that an HOA board must accomplish. Rules and covenants are put into place that every member of the community must follow. These regulations help the community run smoothly and help achieve the ultimate goal of protecting the value of the properties within the neighborhood.
As homeowners association boards are dutifully fulfilling these essential tasks, something that frequently comes up to get in the way of their productivity is disputes between residents in the community. Disagreements between neighbors can be a commonplace occurrence in any community. However, when an HOA is involved, these disputes need to be handled in a professional manner by the board. There should be a process in place to handle these matters, and the process should be strictly followed and documented in every situation. The recommended steps to be implemented are as follows:
1. Require a formal complaint to be filed in writing
It is very common for people to get caught up in a he said/she said type of scenario, especially when it comes to dealing with your neighbors. For this reason, it is imperative that a homeowners association have a process in place that mandates the submission of a written complaint. That way, the parties involved cannot go back and change their stories. There is also a paper trail which can easily be followed, eliminating the potential for the he said/she said scenario. This doesn’t mean that a board member may not field a phone call and listen to a complaint that is verbal in nature. It simply means that even in that kind of instance, it should be required that a written complaint be filed after the verbal conversation.
2. Perform a thorough investigation
Oftentimes, a member of the HOA board will be given all of the pertinent facts and paperwork regarding the complaint at hand and be assigned to complete an investigation. In instances where the home owners association is using a Grapevine property management company to manage the community, the property manager will generally be assigned to complete a thorough investigation of the complaint. In either case, extensive care should be taken throughout the investigative process, and everything should be documented meticulously to continue the paper trail.
3. Conduct interviews and obtain statements as necessary
As part of the investigation, it is oftentimes prudent to either conduct interviews or request statements from the parties or witnesses who are involved in the dispute. Interviews should be recorded whenever possible. Be sure to comply with local laws regarding notification to the parties involved that the conversation is being recorded. Statements can also be taken verbally, although written statements are preferable because then you don’t need to worry about recording them.
4. Determine if board intervention is warranted
Some investigations will provide sufficient evidence to warrant the HOA intervening. Others will conclude that although there is a difference of opinion, no laws or bylaws of the community have been broken. In more serious instances, it may be prudent to have legal counsel present during discussions on whether or not intervention is appropriate. Additionally, it may be necessary to employ legal assistance in the intervention process to ensure that the offending parties rectify the situation and are in compliance with community rules of governance going forward.
If your Arlington HOA or community has outstanding disputes or could use assistance in this area, please do not hesitate to contact PMI Fort Worth for assistance.