Homeowner Associations (“HOAs”) are sometimes unwieldy organizations to deal with. The myriad of regulations that were first set down and amended over the many years in the governing documents (Codes, Covenants and Restrictions, Bylaws, and Rules and Regulations) can be confusing to both new and long-term member homeowners. In addition, each HOA has its own way of “running things” from their interaction with the management company, homeowner members, governmental authorities and service providers to the way it enforces its governing documents through hearings, sanctions, fines and other penalties.
Although it is expected of each and every homeowner that they read “the documents” that accompany their deed to the property and familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations of the HOA that they just bought into, many eyes glaze over at the site of all of these legalese rich documents. Deciphering these documents can be confusing to not only the newest but also to the longest-term homeowner. Even board members with years of service to their community are sometimes unsure of or differ at the meaning of one or more of these documents. This lack of clarity makes it quite difficult to effectively manage an HOA and results in disjointed actions and at times a lack of complete transparency and across the board equal due process that is due each and every member homeowner. This kind of uneven governance opens up the HOA to liability and possible lawsuits. Every HOA should have a handbook in order to address these issues.
A HOA handbook is an indexed and simple reference device that distills these many documents, policies and procedures into a readable and easily decipherable document that can be printed in booklet format and is searchable online via the HOA’s website. This handbook would act as the definitive “go to” source for information for member homeowners and board members alike. The handbook would be distributed to each member homeowner upon their purchase and could be produced in reader-friendly format so it is more likely to be read and accessible to all.
A major source of tension in HOA living is the fact that member homeowner property owners are sometimes themselves misinformed or uninformed as to the rules and regulations of the association and do not adequately communicate such rules to their tenants. Tenants break the rules that they are unaware of, angering member homeowner residents. To solve this common problem, an abridged version (or the entire handbook) should be provided by landlords to their tenants.
A HOA handbook can help to enhance the day-to-day lives of member homeowners and act as a valuable resource for the entire community. Contact your manager for a proposal to produce such a handbook on behalf of your association.
-by Johnny Pappas
Johnny Pappas is a freelance writer and a California Certified Association Manager. He also holds a law degree from Suffolk University and a BA from Boston University.