When an HOA board member breaks rules, do they face the same consequences as other homeowners? This is a question a lot of HOA residents ask. Board members run the show, making decisions and enforcing the rules. As such, it is only normal to wonder whether they need to follow the rules, too, or get a free pass because of their position. The answer, though, is surprisingly simple.
What to Do When an HOA Board Member Breaks Rules
One of the things that homeowners associations are perhaps best known for is their rules. All HOA communities have rules and regulations that keep the peace and maintain a high standard of living. These rules, though, are not always consistently followed. Both homeowners and board members sometimes break these rules, knowingly or otherwise.
When a resident violates the rules, consequences follow. Several consequences are possible depending on state laws and the association’s governing documents. More often than not, it starts with a simple violation notice or letter letting the offender know of their infraction. The HOA may allow the violator to correct their offense without further penalty. However, this is not always the case.
A homeowner who violates the HOA’s rules typically gets to appear at a disciplinary hearing. At this hearing, the homeowner can present their side of the story and provide evidence, if any. The HOA board hears them out and decides based on the meeting. If the board decides that disciplinary action is warranted, there are a few potential penalties.
Most of the time, homeowners will face a monetary fine. The dollar amount of this fine can vary from one association to another. Normally, fines increase with each occurrence of the same violation. They can also differ in dollar amount depending on the gravity of the violation. For instance, violations that endanger others tend to carry a heftier fine.
While board members call the shots, they are not exempt from the rules of the HOA. Board members receive the same treatment as all other homeowners. They do not receive any special privileges. That means they should face the same consequences and follow the same due process when they violate a rule.
HOA Board Breaks Rules: Effects of Special Treatment
Board members are leaders of their community. As such, they should set a good example for their constituents. Of course, board members are still human, which means they are imperfect.
They can make mistakes and violate the rules every once in a while. However, setting a good example means receiving the same treatment as other homeowners when they break the rules.
Several negative effects can follow when a board member receives special treatment, such as exemptions. First, it opens the association and the HOA board to claims of selective enforcement. An HOA board has a fiduciary duty to enforce the rules fairly, consistently, and uniformly. When a board practices selective enforcement, it makes itself vulnerable to liability.
Second, when a board member receives special treatment, the HOA will have a harder time enforcing the rules against other owners. Homeowners will claim that the rules don’t matter anyway since board members, the very leaders of the HOA, disregard them.
Finally, the HOA board’s credibility will no longer hold water. Homeowners will undoubtedly question the board’s character and decision-making capabilities. This will cause distrust between the homeowners and the board.
What Happens If HOA Violates Their Own Rules?
When the HOA violates its rules, the result is far from positive. The community’s operations and enforcement procedures will no longer be effective, ultimately leading to a drop in both the standard of living and property values.
Thankfully, though, homeowners do have some recourses available to them. When an HOA board member breaks rules, consider the following actions.
1. Raise the Concern
Displeased homeowners should always turn to the HOA board when they are concerned. Typically, bringing the issue to the board’s attention is enough to solve the problem. Homeowners can do this by attending a board meeting, participating in the open forum portion, or reaching out to the board through other communication channels. Homeowners can direct their concerns to the manager if the HOA is professionally managed.
It is also a good idea for homeowners to supplement their arguments using state laws and governing documents. Cite provisions and present evidence. If more than one homeowner feels the same way, gather signatures and submit the petition to the board or manager. This will signal to the HOA board that there is more to the issue.
2. Propose an Amendment
If a board member has breached the bylaws, it is important to examine the source of the problem. Bylaws keep operations running smoothly, but they can also become outdated. Some bylaws are so old that they are no longer practical. If that’s the case, the HOA board should consider making an amendment. Homeowners can propose an amendment if the board has not taken action.
3. Call for Removal
An HOA board member who consistently refuses to follow the bylaws should not be a board member. The member could be holding the entire HOA board back or slowing operations. They could even be using intimidation tactics to control the rest of the board. Whatever it may be, an ineffective, unethical, or corrupt board member should be removed.
Homeowners can call for a removal if they believe there is a cause to do so. Removing a board member, though, requires due process. Several states have their laws that govern the process, though associations should also refer to their bylaws for instructions. In North Carolina, Section 47F-3-103(b) of the Planned Community Act requires a majority vote of approval from the members.
4. Take Legal Action
Legal action is the final weapon in a homeowner’s arsenal to force compliance. Homeowners can file a lawsuit if an HOA does not follow its governing documents. Of course, lawsuits take time and money. Plus, homeowners must prove their case with evidence, which isn’t always easy.
Considering the negative impact of lawsuits on the community, homeowners should consider this a last resort. They should also ensure they have conclusive and sufficient evidence to support their claim. This way, they have a better chance of winning.
The Bottom Line
When an HOA board member breaks rules, there are two possible cases. A board member who violates the rules and regulations, such as parking in the wrong spot or making too much noise, should face the same enforcement actions and procedures as other homeowners. However, a board member who doesn’t follow the association’s bylaws in operating the HOA should right their wrongs or lose their position.
Clark Simson Miller can help HOA boards enforce the rules and adhere to the governing documents. Call us today at 865.315.7505 or contact us online to request a proposal!
- How And What Grounds To Remove An HOA Board Member?
- Homeowner Association Complaints: The Right Steps To Handle Them
- HOA Disciplinary Hearing: What Is It And How To Prepare For It