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What Are HOA Violations & How to Avoid Them

Becoming a member of a homeowners' association (HOA) has many advantages, including increased home values and better amenities. However, the extra perks don't come without a price. Members of the association are expected to upkeep their homes and abide by specific rules and guidelines. When a homeowner fails to live up to these expectations, they’ll receive a violation from their HOA board. If you have recently received a violation of your own, then we can help. Keep reading to discover what these violations mean, how to correct them, and ways to avoid them moving forward.

What Is an HOA Violation?

Every association will have a set of governing documents, which includes CC&Rs, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, and other rules and regulations made by the community. When a member of the association breaks one of the rules then they may receive a violation notice from the HOA board. Typically, a violation from your HOA will include details about the offense, how to correct it, and any other information about potential fees, fines, and a deadline to respond or fix the issue. 

Exactly how your association sends violations may vary depending on your governing documents and any applicable city, county, or state laws. Some states have strict guidelines for the handling of HOA violations, including how homeowners will be notified and a process for resolving them.

Common HOA Violations

HOA rules can vary. Even if you live in a similar community type such as a condo, townhome, or single-family home community, there is no guarantee violations will be handled the same from one neighborhood or building to another. However, some violations seem to occur more often than others, including: 

  • Overgrown landscaping
  • Improperly parked vehicles
  • Trash containers in the wrong area
  • Off-season holiday decorations
  • Pet violation (e.g., excessive dog barking)
  • Unapproved architectural changes
  • Smoking in smoke-free areas
  • Illegal rentals

HOA Violation FAQs

For many living in an HOA community, receiving a violation is a rare occurrence. When an association member does receive one, they often have a lot of questions, including how to respond and what are their rights as a homeowner. We've gathered some of the most frequently asked questions below and answered them for you. 

How do I know if I received a violation?

Your association should have specific guidelines on how a homeowner should be notified when receiving a violation. Likewise, your state may give even more guidance on the notification process. Typically, you’ll receive a violation as a written notice through certified mail. Other violation notices could come from a phone call, email, or even a notification on a community website or app. 

Why did I get a violation, and my neighbor did not?

Your association is required to act in a way that is reasonable and non-discriminatory, including how they enforce rules and regulations. If there are multiple people in an association violating a policy, then it should be applied the same regardless of the offender. However, it’s important not to jump to any conclusions. Take the time to speak with your HOA board if you have concerns about unfair enforcement—it may be a simple misunderstanding. If not, then you may be able to argue that point later when your violation is reviewed. 

What should I do when I receive a violation?

Ideally, you’ll receive written notice of any violations along with any applicable information for the next steps. Typically, with a first-time offense, you’ll simply need to correct the issue within an allotted amount of time, and that’ll be the end of it. For others, you may need to attend a hearing, pay a fine, or take further action to fix the problem.

Is there a way to appeal my violation from my HOA?

If you believe you’ve received a violation by mistake, then your association should have a hearing process in place. At a violation hearing, you’ll have the option to present your argument and evidence to the HOA board to overturn your violation. Following the hearing, your board will render their decision. If you’re unhappy with the outcome of your hearing, there may be additional steps you can take to appeal, depending on your community's bylaws and state laws.

3 Ways to Avoid HOA Violations

When it comes to HOA violations, your best bet is to avoid them altogether. Below are three simple ways to prevent violations and stay in good standing with your community, no matter where you live.

  1. Read, learn, and follow your HOA's governing documents.
  2. Stay in the loop about new rules and guidelines by attending all your association's meetings and events. 
  3. Don't forget to communicate. In the end, keeping open lines of communication with your board, neighbors, and other community partners will eliminate most misunderstandings and problems.

Want to Learn More About Your HOA?

After more than 40 years of community management experience, we've helped countless people learn the ins and out of association living. If you want more information about community violations, then check out our HOA 101 series, including our post "What Are Fees, Fines, & Assessments?"