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Dealing with your HOA doesn't have to lead to court

When you bought your house, you knew that it came with a homeowners' association. Having an HOA in a community does have its benefits. Your housing development may have a pool, tennis courts and a clubhouse where you can get together with friends and family.

On the other hand, you are also subject to the HOA's covenants, conditions and restrictions, among other rules. You may be willing to comply with the CC&Rs and other rules, but that does not mean that you should feel held hostage by the board. If you find yourself in a dispute with your HOA board, you can fight back.

Tips for taking on your HOA

You may have heard horror stories about homeowners who fought their HOAs and ended up losing their homes or paying for litigation that lasted years. Those stories are often examples of extreme situations, and you may be able to avoid becoming the subject of an online news article with the following tips:

  • Remember that the members of the board also live in your community. Remaining calm and avoiding hostility could go a long way toward resolving your dispute.
  • If your dispute revolves around a rule you disagree with, it's likely that many of your neighbors disagree with it, too. Instead of arguing with the board about the rule, rally other homeowners to your side to change the rule.
  • Even though your goal is to stay out of court, you need to document all of your interactions with the board in case you do end up litigating your dispute. Responses should be in writing, and be sure to keep a copy.
  • Understand what the potential penalties are for your alleged violation of the rules. This may help you decide whether you are willing to take your dispute to court.
  • Whatever you do, do not stop paying your HOA dues. You can always ask for refund later, if appropriate, but if you fail to pay those dues, you could face fines and other penalties that add up quickly, allow the board to charge you for attorney's fees and open the way for the board to file a lien or foreclosure on your home.
  • Understand the covenants, conditions and restrictions, along with the rules and bylaws of your HOA. Your alleged violation may not even be in the written rules provided to homeowners.

Even if you aren't looking to take your dispute to court, you may want to consult with an attorney before taking on your HOA board. The more you understand your rights and responsibilities, the better off you will be. In addition, the governing documents of your HOA could be convoluted and a challenge to understand. Having an experienced eye review and explain them could prove invaluable.

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