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How Do I Solve An HOA Dispute

Homeowners associations are great because many times the members diligently strive to keep the community looking great and prevents your neighbors from devaluing your property. It's also advantageous because the fees you pay are an investment in future repairs. So, while other homeowners have to come up with the cash to fix a major problem, you don't. It's also nice having the peace of mind that the neighborhood is secure. For those which have resort style amenities, that's just icing on the cake.

However, there are instances when disputes arise between one or more homeowners and the governing association. When this does occur, it can often times be easily resolved. However, there are instances when situations turn ugly; and, it is wise not to push it to a level that is untenable. The fact of the matter is, you consented to live by the rules of the bylaws and though the situation might seem unfair, it's a reality.

Dealing with an association dispute will be a chore because the rules favor the association and are there to protect your neighbors, as well as the community itself. Still, there are ways to solve an HOA issue, that is, if you're really set on doing something the rules do not permit. Of course, not breaking the rules in the first place is sage advice, but sometimes, the rules are either at odds with themselves or just plain outdated.

Do Your Homework Before You Buy

You can take precautions if you're considering purchasing a property in an HOA community. Before you commit to buy a home under an association, check out the governing body and use the available resources. You can accomplish this by just checking current listings in the community itself. If there are a lot of homes for sale or for rent, that's one sign that the current owners have some issues with the association.
When purchasing real estate, you might be one of the 25 percent of people who purchase a property in a common interest development, which is more commonly known as a homeowners association, or HOA. And while all properties have issues, HOAs have a unique set of additional operational, legal and financial issues that buyers must consider, analyze and review in conjunction with their purchase. It's ultimately a personal choice for a buyer to consider. --AOL Real Estate

Another telltale sign is available at the local clerk of the court's office. Search public records related to the association to find out if it's the target of homeowner lawsuits. Should there be copious amounts of legal action being taken against the governing body, that's a sure sign it's run afoul of many of the people who live in the community.

Last but not least, just take a tour through the community and chat with the residents to get their take on what it's like to live under the association. You're likely to get the unvarnished truth and a unfettered glimpse of how residents feel. You'll have to weigh what you hear with each personality and come to a level headed conclusion.

How to Solve an HOA Dispute

For those who do have a dispute with their homeowners' association, all is not lost, though it might seem that way. You do have some options and here's what you can do:

  • Learn your rights under the bylaws. You do, of course, have rights under the rules, as does the association. You just might have a way to massage your way out of the situation. Read the bylaws carefully to understand what your rights are and what options are available to you.

  • Try to be strategic in your moves. Instead of arguing against a specific bylaw, get your neighbors to lobby to change it. Chances are probably favorable to you as some rules might be quite unpopular with the rest of the residents. If you take this tactic, you're more likely to see a positive outcome.

  • Pay those pesky fines. Though you won't like it, pay any fines leveled against you to keep the situation from getting worse. If you don't, you run the risk of having a lien placed against your property or even a foreclosure action being initiated.

  • Keep documentation of everything. You probably already know the need to keep records of everything, but it bears repeating. You'll need that documentation later down the road, especially if it turns into an active legal dispute.

If none of the above options prove to resolve the issue, then you ought to consider entering into an alternative dispute resolution. Speaking of legal action, another route to take is through mediation. Should that not produce any results, lawyer-up and get a real estate attorney's advice.