As Homeowner Associations continue to expand within the U.S., the more need for HOA volunteers and board members will rise. Considering that most board members are strictly volunteers, the job itself can be rewarding, yet extremely challenging at times. Like any business, the HOA board of directors is organized with people of all backgrounds and philosophies. No board is a like and each one brings great value to their community. Without formal training, HOA boards can create great difficulty in keeping their community organized. It’s the HOA board’s responsibility to either thrive or survive — more importantly, it’s how they handle the challenge that makes the most difference.
What are the effects of homeowner association problems in 2020?
When HOA boards prolong problems, it can create a large void in their community and board of directors. For example, increase in complaints, miscommunication, financial issues and even lawsuits are only the beginning of what can result if homeowner association problems are not resolved. In order for a community to thrive, volunteers and membership is crucial. No HOA wants to be put in the situation where no one is willing to volunteer. As supporters of the HOA community, we feel it is important to acknowledge common HOA issues, along with effective ways to solve them. Listed below are 11 common homeowner association problems that are steadily growing among HOAs.
Homeowner association problems you will find in this article:
- Maintaining property value
- Common areas
- Financial issues
- HOA Rights and Violations
- Member engagement
- Parking and service trucks
- Investments in technology
- Change in legislation
11 Common Homeowner Association Problems In 2020
Problem 1) Maintaining property value:
As the housing market continues to fluctuate, HOAs often seek ways to keep up with the value of their community.
- Maintenance and repairs: In order for properties to keep their high value, HOAs must maintain a standard for common areas and properties. In situations where communities do not have enough volunteers or maintenance, these standards can easily decline and lower the value of the community.
Although 2020 has presented challenges in unique and unexpected ways, HOA boards should continue to enforce the rules behind property maintenance and repairs, as outlined in the CC&Rs.
- By enforcing these rules, the HOA becomes an invaluable part of preserving the sustainability of the neighborhood.
- Try to engage the community and show the importance of maintenance for everyone.
- Create volunteer groups to help and make sure to share improvements and current actions with the homeowners.
Problem 2) Common areas:
Due to the occurrence of COVID-19, many HOAs have had to update their rules and regulations regarding common areas. Unfortunately, if members do not stay up-to-date with their community newsfeed, an increase of complaints from other residents can occur and cause more stress on the HOA board.
- Pools: Due to COVID-19, many community pools and common areas have closed or had their rules changed due to the safety of their residents. With the beginning of the warmer season, the HOA needed to implement new rules for the reopening of common areas, for example: scheduling to use the pool, children need to be monitored and social distance must be respected.
- Recreational centers: As the economy continues to open back up, recreational centers will continue to enforce strict rules on their members when it comes to proper cleaning protocols. Residents that do not obey these rules can create major health hazards on the center and their members.
Consistently communicate in regard to any common area changes or updates. Make clear the reasons for the new roles and reinforce that the changes are to preserve the health of all. Provide a clear process for all residents when it comes to reserving an amenity.
- Manage reservations: by using the TownSq manage reservations feature, HOAs can have complete acknowledgement of common areas, complete reservations and cancellations. This feature also allows residents to put their reservation on an automatic standby line, along with blocking residents in default if a common area is reserved. Technologies like this will facilitate the use of common areas without causing any inconvenience, such as agglomerations or duplicate reservations.
- Special reservations: Have an awareness of those that may be more health conscious, especially when it comes to the elderly. As an alternative solution, HOA recreational centers could offer special workout times for senior citizens that may be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
Problem 3) Financial issues:
Oftentimes an HOA board can fear the opinions of their community members when it comes to financials; it is quite common for some boards to receive complaints on how dues are utilized.
- Raising dues: HOAs can increase fees on an annual basis to meet their budget. Due to the financial strain that some families have recently experienced, many members have sought the need for financial help and have experienced issues with paying their HOA dues.
- Communication: As the HOA board of directors, it is important to keep open communication on the utilization of HOA dues.
- Transparency: Work to improve financial transparency within your community by encouraging attendance to board meetings. It is essential to keep financial documentation up-to-date. This also includes compiling and distributing an annual financial report which should be audited and reviewed regularly.
- Reports: Regular financial reports and audits should be maintained and available upon request, if not published annually for full transparency.
- Review the budget: If your community is facing higher delinquency due to a crisis, reviewing the budget to check where to cut costs can help to avoid the need of raising dues.
Problem 4) Communication:
Communication is key when it comes to effectively running an HOA. When communication is not present or closed off to its members, problems can begin to easily escalate and reflect poorly on the community. One factor that increased communication problems was the adaptation that 2020 imposed on HOA, transferring meetings and voting to an online environment.
- HOA Hierarchy: When difficult executive decisions are made within a board of directors, community members may not always agree and assume these decisions are made by a single board member vs. a group. When members are not educated on how decisions are executed within an HOA hierarchy, residents can begin to make misled accusations about their HOA board.
- Process of communication: When a proper process of communication is not implemented to it’s HOA members and board of directors, increase in complaints, violations and the board roles can become highly affected. It’s important that the board understands the importance of clear communication in the daily lives of residents.
It is important to provide all HOA board and members a proper communication process, along with alternative options to communicate.
- Zoom/GoogleMeet: Consider applications such as Zoom, which works as a virtual way for people to stay connected. This option allows members to host virtual meetings and events from the comfort of their own home and still be informed.
- Social Media: Nowadays, most everyone uses social media as a way to update themselves about what is going on around them. Utilizing social media groups is a great way to stay connected to your community. It also portrays a more open approach to being in the know.
- Offline solutions: it’s important to remember that not all residents have a way of dealing with technology, so it’s important to plan ways to keep these people informed. Even though the ideal is to have all residents integrated in an online platform, it’s still necessary to create printed materials to leave in strategic places that everyone has access to.
Problem 5) HOA Rights and Violations:
In general, it is not often that an HOA member will receive a violation. Yet, it can happen from time-to-time and lead some residents to be misled on what they can do to appeal it.
- Poor communication: When an HOA board struggles to constructively communicate new rules or violations to their community, a resident can feel targeted for no reason when receiving a violation. As a result, this can lead to a “he said, she said” scenario.
HOAs have the right to expect all community members to abide by HOA rules. If members are not provided with the proper CC&Rs, residents are not able to understand their full rights as an HOA member.
- Communication: Keep an open line of communication to all members about HOA guidelines on a monthly basis. Allow members to ask questions and acknowledge areas of confusion.
- Make sure to properly keep track of the violations: it is not easy to handle violations, but we know rules are there to help everyone in the HOA. When sending the violations to the residents, make sure to keep track of them so it is easy to know when it was issued, for which home and other important notes. One way to organize community and hoa violations is using the messages functionality present in the TownSq app. Managers and board members can issue and track all violations, while homeowners have a centralized place to check everything regarding their homes. As a result, both parties are able to establish a strong communication process, especially in situations about HOA rules and regulations.
Problem 6) Pets:
As 2020 has seen most of us in our homes, looking for ways to keep ourselves entertained and mitigate loneliness has become a strong priority within the family. As a result, many people have made the decision to adopt a new pet or add an additional pet to their family. Although this is a great way to keep company, an uptick in pet population can bring additional homeowner association problems:
- Noise complaints: More pets mean an opportunity for more noise.
- Pet sanitary issues: Pet waste has been known to be a continuous problem within HOA properties for some time. As the influx of new pet owners increases, the more risk of health concerns can occur.
Although every community is different, all community members should be consistently informed about how to properly care for your pets when in common areas or placing your pet in a backyard.
- Pet of the month: To incorporate a more pet friendly community, create a “pet of the month” contest that can be presented in a monthly newsletter. As a result, community members observe the importance of following pet guidelines and that their HOA board recognizes families for being a good pet neighbor.
- Pet waste management services: if pet waste is a common issue in your community, you could try companies specialized in pet waste management.
- Proper communication: it is important to communicate with the homeowners, making sure everyone knows the community rules that should be followed regarding pets. Board members can do that using email, texting, or through the community app. TownSq for instance, is a community app that offers an announcement feature where the HOA boards can share news to make sure every resident is staying up-to-date with any updates and events. Members are able to easily receive push notifications and instant emails about any changes or updates that may impact the lives of their pets. Besides, all the HOA Documents and rules can be always available in the TownSq documents section, without the need to look for physical books.
Problem 7) Complaints:
At times, community members can be misled on what is considered a complaint; this includes how to properly submit one.
- Holiday decorations: HOAs can enforce uniformity on decorations, including holiday decor. Unfortunately, some residents can prolong taking down holiday decorations or not use the proper type of lighting as directed in their HOA guidelines.
- Submitting complaints: Sometimes community members will assume that they can bypass the proper procedures for submitting complaints and go directly to their HOA board. Although this is not ideal, doing this can sometimes lead to assumed favoritism among other HOA community members.
- Poor communication: Not everyone can communicate in the same way. Some may assume email is ok, when in fact a formal written complaint is the proper way to submit a complaint.
It is always best to establish a clear complaint process to your community. If you employ a management company, a formalized complaint process is something that can be taken care of for you. Without a management company, a formal process for written complaints or an informal process of open board meetings can be established.
- Establish a clear communication process: The more HOA boards enforce a clear streamlined process, the more community members will engage and participate.
- If someone has a complaint, what is the official place they should go for? Some examples are:
- email account
- phone number
- a physical book
- an onsite manager
- a helpdesk system
- an hoa app. Centralizing all complaints in requests, private among homeowners but available to the board can help better and faster handling.
- Make sure to communicate these processes. You can utilize email reminders, newsletters, and monthly updates.
Problem 8) Member engagement:
HOAs thrive when it is a tight-knit community. Without engagement, HOA boards can be misled on the needs of their community members.
- Low meeting attendance: Low attendance may not always mean that members are unhappy or experiencing issues. When this occurs, an HOA board may begin to assume that continuous meetings are not always necessary or even ask to residents what form they consider most appropriate for them to attend the meeting.
- Community events: Due to COVID-19, community events have greatly changed and have even been cancelled. As a result, community members can become discouraged and start to distance themselves from wanting to be involved.
In times like the ones we are living in, it’s necessary to reinvent the way we are together and communicate. As younger and multi-generational residents begin to increase within HOA communities, a need for more tech savvy ways of communicating will be needed. For example, implementing mobile applications that can provide fast updates and HOA notifications.
- Virtual marketing events: Utilize applications such as Zoom that offers community members the option to be part of a group gathering vs. having to be in person. Using zoom to host virtual meetings is another option that many HOAs have seen as a way to increase engagement.
- Host a Q&A session: Host a virtual or in-person meeting for anyone that may have questions or concerns about better understanding their HOA. This can also include a Q&A about opportunities to become more involved. It is important to keep the focus strictly on the community members’ needs; allow time for opinions or new ideas.
Problem 9) Parking and service trucks:
As eCommerce continues to rise through our recent epidemic, the more need for home delivery and pickup services will rise.
- Service truck parking issues: At times, HOA can experience issues with overnight parking of commercial vehicles. There can also be confusion for residents on what qualifies as a service truck vs. a truck that delivers mail or packages.
- Guest parking issues: When the majority of parking spots are reserved for community members, overnight parking can become an issue. When HOAs do not provide alternative parking or proper directions for guests, an increase in resident complaints and violations can occur.
- Visible signs: It is important to explicitly state where guests can and cannot park. This will help enforce violations to discourage parking in non-guest areas.
- Smart lock systems: Providing smart lock systems can be an alternative solution that allows delivery drivers to access a one-time code to drop off packages in an actual safe. As a result, communities can have a secure way to keep so-called porch pirates away.
Problem 10) Investments in technology:
As the HOA board considers costs that are included in their annual budgets, such as repairs, maintenance, and amenities, the thought of adding the expense of new technology can be tough to justify.
- Financial: With some families going through financial hardships, some families are not able to pay dues. As a result, HOAs have had to become financially strict and make large decreases in their yearly budget.
- Not being open to change: When an HOA board is set in their ways, change can be difficult, especially when it comes to technology. Some may feel that technology is considered more of a luxury vs. a necessity.
Being open to change can be hard for some, but in the end, the pros can highly outweigh the cons. When HOA boards implement positive changes, they will see a tangible benefit by increase in engagement and membership.
- Discuss ways to save on cost: When an HOA considers investing into a new technology, laying out the groundwork for an HOA board of directors should be an important part of the process. For example, a board could compile a list of current processes by outlining ways that technology could make the lives of their HOA board and its members more efficient. Discuss areas of financial hardships and roadblocks that your HOA board and community members often face. Are there applications or other virtual technologies that could help eliminate these obstacles? If so, will these solutions help save on cost and streamline duties? Make sure to provide a visual so that all members have a way of seeing the bigger picture. Not only will community engagement and communication increase, but your HOA will gain great value in the end.
Problem 11) Change in legislation:
As more people begin to leave office life and start to work from home, there will soon be some impactful changes in the law that may affect HOA management.
- Voting: Voting processes including requiring ballots given to all members will soon change. For example, disqualifications of candidates and documentation of voting materials may not settle well with some community members.
- Dwelling units: The 2020 HOA civil codes and requirements signed into law include banning restrictions on the construction of accessory dwelling units. For example, a secondary housing unit such as a garage apartment or a pool house with the purpose of living space will soon change. This also includes inspections on a regular basis of vertical elements.
Communication is key. Consistently communicate any new changes that may soon affect your HOA community. Allow members to be informed ahead of time so that there are no mislead assumptions; doing this will help ease the stress of change on your members.
Advice and Best Practices on How To Solve Common Problems With Your Homeowners Association
Keep in mind that all HOA communities are different. It is quite common to have homeowner association problems —not everyone is able to manage every solution on their own. As we all know, there are always more ways than one to solve a problem. To brief our discussion about homeowner association problems, provided below are some general guidelines to keep in mind when trying to resolve issues with your HOA board and community.
1. Communicate and engage: No matter what type of community you are in, communication is usually a common problem and also the solution! So, allow an open communication policy to all members. Communicate on a regular basis and allow your community to have a voice. Be sure to provide alternative options to communicating such as virtual meetings, group gatherings, texting, social media groups, specialized community apps, or whatever solution fits your reality.
2. Keep an open eye on finances: As the old saying goes, money doesn’t grow on trees.
- Be creative in thinking of ways that your HOA community can save on cost and financially invest.
- Research ways of using technology as a way to save on cost that can help reduce the stress of your HOA board.
- Take into consideration the needs of the community and how you visualize your community in the next 10 years.
- Be cautious of environmental and generational changes that may cater to a different way of living.
3. Know and evaluate your processes: For any HOA community to be successful, strong processes and procedures must be executed. Take time to evaluate your community’s processes, along with allowing areas of change and improvement. Whether it be issues with parking, regulating common areas, or submitting complaints, there will always be something that can be improved.
4. Track projects and maintain property value: Consistently keep up with large and small projects that may have a high impact on the value of your community. Create proper processes and a strong communication when it comes to maintenance and those responsible. Recognize volunteers for their efforts and contribution to the community.
5. Technology is in your favor: When it comes to technology, finding a software to help improve your HOA community is an important factor in the decision-making process. Take the consideration of all members and how they can utilize technology methods in their day-to-day lives. You can use email, online to-do lists and task trackers, video meetings, community app, social media groups and other tools. Important here is to understand your needs and where the technology can help your community.
These are just some of the common HOA problems board members face frequently. And what about your community? What problems do you face and how are you solving them?