homeowner association complaints

Dealing with homeowner association complaints is typical in managing an HOA community. Board members should know how to handle these complaints when they arise. In doing so, they can keep residents happy and foster a harmonious neighborhood — all while ensuring the association’s protection from liability.


Should the Board Address All Homeowner Association Complaints?

Board members should know that complaints are pretty common in an HOA. While it is the job of the HOA board to run the community, addressing complaints does not always fall under that, especially if the complaints are outside of the board’s authority.

For instance, if a homeowner has a complaint about illegally parked vehicles on a public road, that is typically the local government’s jurisdiction. Associations generally don’t exercise control over public roads.

Filing a complaint against a homeowners association unit owner is also something that residents can do. Although they can go through the HOA, it is usually best to try resolving the situation personally. When homeowners complain to HOA about a neighbor, board members can advise residents to speak to the neighbor first. Sometimes, the board doesn’t have to step in.

Every complaint is different, so there is no all-encompassing rule when it comes to determining whether or not the board should intervene. Board members should play it by ear and assess complaints on a case-by-case basis.


How to Handle Homeowner Association Complaints

No homeowners association is perfect. Residents will have complaints, whether they are valid or otherwise. When these complaints arise, it is important for the HOA board to know how to field and address them appropriately.

Here’s how board members should handle HOA complaints.


1. Acknowledge Their Concerns

The first thing your HOA board should do is acknowledge the complainant’s concerns. Be careful not to expressly or even indirectly agree with the complaint. Let them know that the board has heard their complaint and will review it accordingly. Sometimes, homeowners want to vent their frustrations and need an ear to listen.

If you don’t have one yet, creating a homeowners association complaint form is a good idea. This way, you can standardize the process and keep things as professional as possible.


Review HOA State Laws2. Review State Laws

Upon receiving a homeowner’s complaint, the next step is to develop a resolution. Begin by investigating federal or state laws relevant to the homeowner’s concerns. If the law already provides a solution, the board’s job is 90% complete.

However, laws can sometimes be ambiguous. Regardless of the situation, it’s best to consult your association’s attorney for guidance.


3. Check Your Governing Documents

When the law doesn’t explicitly address HOA complaints, turn your attention to the association’s governing documents. When faced with complaints about HOA rules or members, refer to your bylaws and CC&Rs to identify any relevant provisions. For instance, if an owner complains about a neighbor’s loud party at 3 in the morning, consult your governing documents for regulations on noise levels.


4. Discuss With the Board and/or Manager

If neither the law nor governing documents offer a clear solution, meet with the HOA board and manager. Evaluate the whole situation and explore options for a mutually beneficial resolution. However, it is essential to understand that creating a win-win solution is not always possible. Sometimes, the most practical solution won’t even favor the complainant.


5. Deliver the Resolution

Following discussions with the board and HOA manager, it’s time to relay the resolution to the complainant. Depending on the outcome, this part will either be easy or difficult. If the complainant disagrees with the resolution, it could escalate tensions.

When communicating the decision, approach the situation empathetically, acknowledging the complainant’s feelings without encouraging further conflict. Clearly explain the rationale behind the decision and emphasize the board’s commitment to the community’s well-being. Maintain transparency and avoid assigning blame.


The Importance of an Internal Dispute Resolution Process

An HOA must adopt an internal dispute resolution (IDR) process. First, an IDR process offers a structured and standardized way to address conflicts within the community. It formalizes how an HOA board handles complaints, ensuring transparency and fairness for everyone.

Second, having an IDR process helps prevent minor issues from escalating into more significant problems. Addressing disputes in their early stages makes things quicker and easier, resulting in less cost for the association and the parties involved.

Finally, an effective IDR process can protect the HOA from lengthy and expensive lawsuits. By resolving disputes internally, the association can prevent the issue from going to court. This is especially helpful when addressing complaints against HOA communities. In some states, such as California, going through internal or alternative dispute resolution is mandatory before filing a lawsuit.


How to Deal With Nonsensical or Baseless Complaints

No HOA community is ever going to have zero complaints. Some homeowners can and will find just about anything wrong with the association. They can even nitpick the most minor or most insignificant of things. When handling a nonsensical or petty complaint against a homeowners association, there are a few steps the board can take.

First, board members should minimize interactions with the complainant and maintain a strictly professional relationship with them. Of course, this doesn’t mean the board should automatically dismiss complaints from this person. The board should still review every complaint that comes in. However, nonsensical or baseless complaints may only need a canned or standardized response from the HOA.

If the person continues to bombard the board with the same complaint, consider letting them know that the board has closed the matter and will no longer entertain further communications. Make sure to maintain detailed records of your communications and complaints. This way, you can protect the association from liability should the situation require it.

Sometimes, the owner will threaten legal action. If that happens, boards should promptly notify their insurance provider, their HOA manager, and their attorney. Even if it is an empty threat, these parties should be informed immediately.


Homeowner Complaints Against HOA Leaders

If homeowners have complaints against their board members or managers, there are a few things they should keep in mind.


Filing a Complaint Against a Homeowners Association Board MemberFiling a Complaint Against a Homeowners Association Board Member

Homeowners should direct their complaints against a board member to the HOA board or the community manager. An effective board or manager will handle the complaint properly, even if it concerns one of their own. If need be, homeowners can request to enter dispute resolution.

Very few states have dedicated agencies or bodies that govern HOAs or HOA managers. As such, it is essential to check your state agencies.


Filing a Complaint Against a Community Manager

Like complaints against board members, homeowners should direct these complaints to the HOA board or management company. If the community manager is ineffective or behaves inappropriately, it may be time to consider switching to a new manager.

Again, some states regulate community managers or HOA management companies, but not all. In certain cases, homeowners may be able to file a complaint with their state’s real estate department.


Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Board members should know how to address homeowner association complaints. It is part of their job to ensure a happy and harmonious community. Keep in mind, though, that not all complaints have merit. As such, the board should investigate every complaint that comes in.

Fielding complaints can be a bother to some HOA boards. This is where Clark Simson Miller can help. Call us today at 865.315.7505 or contact us online to request a proposal!