If you know what to expect and can decipher the root of the problem, there are simple ways to respond and help the association accomplish its goals. Keep in mind: Most residents who object to following design standards feign ignorance or know they’re wrong but try to argue their way out of compliance.
Here are some of the most common owner objections to enforcement and how you can respond.
Why are you picking on me? The owner thinks he is being singled out and that others violate the same rule without enforcement. Just because another owner is violating the same rule doesn’t mean it’s not being addressed.
Response: It’s quite possible others are violating this particular rule too, but we don’t discuss their business with you any more than we should discuss your business with them. Notices may have already been sent to other violators. If you or others don’t comply, there will be fines. If you know of others who are violating the rule, please let us know.
When everybody else is made to follow the rules, I will. That is what everyone says. Similar to the comment above, you are supposed to go away and bother others first. Owners who take this approach are usually the most difficult and may require harsher measures, such as fines, to adhere to the rules.
Response: Let me assure you that every concern is being handled. We know that some are more reluctant than others to do what they should, but the board is looking for leaders who can show others the advantages of curb appeal.
I can’t believe you expect me to do that. I already do so much for the community. Often, this comes from a person who sees herself as the ultimate do-gooder. Likely, she is a former board or committee member or is involved in charitable activities. The owner sees herself as entitled to ignore some rules that she doesn’t see as important since she does so much good in the community. In the exchange, the resident is likely to point out her good deeds and will be insulated and indignant that the association would call on her to do more.
Response: Thank you for all you do in the community. It truly is great to have your help and support. However, the association’s covenants apply to everyone, including current and former board members, committee members and others who give back to the community. We’re happy to discuss your involvement in the association, but we need you to adhere to the rules first.
I am doing the best I can. Nobody will help me. Some residents feel overwhelmed with the enormity of an appearance gone bad.
Response: We understand some folks don’t have a green thumb and aren’t handy with minor repairs. The board is happy to work with you on a timetable for corrections, but improvement must be made. We can recommend a great handyman or landscaper who can give you a discount. Tackle one issue at a time. Other residents in the community and the board are grateful to see improvement even if it is gradual, but the final goal is full rehabilitation. If you don’t fix things, it’s within our rights to hire workers to resolve the issues and bill you for the work, but we don’t want to have to do that.
I obey most of the covenants. Let’s say there are 30 covenant provisions, and the resident does great on 29 of them, but parks his boat and trailer in the yard. That doesn’t do the community any good.
Response: If it’s OK for everyone to pick one covenant to ignore, how would you feel about your neighbor operating a welding shop in his garage? What if the woman across the street stopped mowing her yard? Would it be OK if someone else kept a cow in the backyard? When you buy into the community, you buy into all of the covenants and rules. If everyone ignored one provision of their choice, the community – and property values – would suffer.
I don’t want to participate. This requires a firm response; the owner forgot or isn’t aware of the obligations of owning in a common-interest community.
Response: You entered into a legal contract with the association when you bought a home here. All association members are required to adhere to the covenants. There is no opting out for this or any other rule. Appearance translates to property values. A well-kept home and exterior help everyone.
You won’t get any more association assessments from me. The owner wants to threaten the board and force it out of existence. The owner doesn’t like being corrected and takes it personally.
Response: A few others have done this at times, and it’s proven costly; late fees and legal expenses to collect delinquent assessments add up quickly. You are free to do what you want, but if we work out the problem now, it’ll be much easier and cheaper for both you and the association.
I pay my assessments. Why are you bothering me? This person considers assessments a bribe. The board is getting its money and should leave him alone. The owner believes the association just needs enough money to handle common property upkeep and if people like him pay their assessments, all will be ok.
Response: Thank you for paying your assessments, but that’s only one important part of living here. Another part is individual home upkeep. Common property is seen by everyone, but the community also is judged on how individual homes look. Your compliance with the rules will help.
You tell whoever complained about me to come tell me to my face. This challenge must be met with a firm response.
Response: This isn’t how the community operates. Board members and the association manager do regular drive through inspections of the community. You’re in violation of the covenants; nobody has to complain about you.
You won’t have any friends if you treat people like this. This is designed to intimidate the covenants enforcer. The woner is hoping you will rethink fussing about your neighbors since you’ll be making “enemies.” The truth is that for every resident with this mindset, there are dozens who are praising your efforts.
Response: The covenants are enforced whether or not we’re friends. Uniform aesthetics are a key component to property values. We do this because it’s important to all residents, not because we want to make friends.
So-and-so on the board is a personal friend of mine. This is also designed to scare you away from doing your assignment. Board members should have the integrity to back you.
Response: It doesn’t matter who you know. Every member of this community must adhere to the rules.
I’m not worried about what the outside of my home or my property look like. I’m not about to sell. The owner is struck in the moment and not thinking about the property values or neighbors who may be trying to sell their homes.
Response: The outside of your home and your property is all everybody else sees. It’s the board’s responsibility to see that upkeep is handled. There are others nearby who are trying to sell. Buyers look at all properties in the community. While you have no plan to sell now, that could change. Wouldn’t you want other properties to look nice when you are ready to sell?
Nobody around me minds. This is closely related to the above. It’s not the neighbor’s job to complain to a fellow owner; it’s the association’s job to enforce the covenants.
Response: Perhaps no one has complained to you, but the violation exists and it affects others. Our job as an association is to approach homeowners about problems so neighbors don’t have to do it. It also reduces conflict between owners.
Covenants enforcement isn’t easy, or popular, but it is a critical part of association operations. If you’re armed with the right information, ready to respond and can share a copy of the association documents, you’re doing your job. Certainly, this won’t solve all the problems, but it’s a start.
By: Charles Stewart