Whenever you buy property in a community with a Homeowner’s Association or HOA, you do so agreeing to keep the rules of that community. Despite and agreements, contracts, and covenants, though, it’s not uncommon for disputes to arise.
During the first half of 2018, the most valuable type of commercial real estate being constructed was for private offices, and the total value of America’s new construction projects in 2016-2017 grew by more than $35 billion. America is one of the world’s largest construction markets, and with all that construction comes inevitable disputes. In fact, nearly 80% of all the civil cases that get filed are contract disputes or small claims cases.
If you’re part of an HAO and are facing issues, when do you know that it’s time to hire an HOA lawyer or some kind of real estate law firm?
Look Over Your Rules
When you’re having a dispute, the first thing to do is check your Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CCandRs). You would be given a copy of this before the final sale and it sets out rules not only for maintaining the safety of the community, but also property values and even the uniformity of the area. It typically addresses things like laundry lines and pets, flags and fences, landscaping and snow-removal, and sometimes even things like what kind of curtains or climate control a home can have. Sometimes regulations are clear, and other times the regulation is that you have to get permissions.
How Problems Arise
One thing that typically causes problems is when “permission” or its denial seems arbitrary or even personal. Issues can also arise when the HOA changes community rules, especially without a clear consensus or at a meeting you were unable to attend. This is when people start thinking about getting an HOA lawyer.
Arranging For Arbitration
The first step in an HOA dispute, before real estate law firms are called in, is to notify the HOA that you have a dispute. Some HOAs have rules in place obligating them to arrange for arbitration whenever this happens. It’s also always possible that a compromise can be reached, and taking things any further can alienate neighbors and make living in the community more difficult. However, sometimes compromise and arbitration simply don’t work, and an HOA lawyer has to be called in.
Taking Legal Action
Although the HOA lawyer should be a last resort, if the issue is big enough or the HOA is clearly acting outside its jurisdiction or in an obviously personal attack, sometimes an HOA lawyer is the only smart choice. This is especially common when an HOA is trying to force something that isn’t covered in the CCandRs or favoring certain members of the community over others. A court action can require an HOA to obey its own rules, or even strike down a rule entirely.
Finding an HOA Lawyer
It can be more difficult to find a lawyer willing to take an HOA dispute because they can be tricky, but it is possible. Some lawyers specialize in contract disputes like those of an HOA. Some are specifically HOA attorneys. Sometimes a commercial real estate attorney will also take on a contract dispute with an HOA.
If you can work out your HOA dispute through compromise, that’s always the best option. When things go too far or your rights are being infringed, get an HOA lawyer to look over your case and help you defend yourself and your property rights.