Receiving a violation notice sometimes raises logical questions in the mind of Association members, so we have put together this list of frequently asked questions to help explain this process. Texas Law dictates certain content and language in every Association’ correspondence within the violation process, so notices are sometimes interpreted as being harshly written, although that is not the intent. The HOA Manager must issue correspondence that complies with State Law. We hope this will help dispel some of the more common myths and provide important facts concerning the Violation and Enforcement procedure of your Association.
Why does the HOA care what I do, since this is my home?
The basic ideas behind a Homeowners Association include ensuring a good quality of life for residents, ensuring their right to quiet enjoyment of their home or residence, ensuring compliance with applicable laws or codes, and helping to keep property values from declining. Without enforcing certain rules, the HOA will not have the means to accomplish these goals.
Why should there be monetary fines for not following the rules? Isn’t the HOA just after more of my money?
A violation notice (warning notice) provides information to educate and call attention to non-compliance. A notice of violation fine (fine notice) is a consequence of disregarding the warning previously sent. Just as it is futile to have rules without enforcement, there must also be consequences if enforcement efforts are to be effective. The primary purpose of the violation process is to educate homeowners about what the Association’s rules are and what consequences (monetary fines) noncompliance with HOA rules may bring. Fines are one of the tools in the process; they are certainly not the end goal.
What is the actual Violation “Process?”
First, a violation warning notice is mailed to the applicable property owner and sometimes simultaneously emailed. Included in the Notice is a “date to cure by,” which represents a reasonable amount of time to “cure” or resolve the violating condition. At times, this could be immediately (such as moving a vehicle that is parked improperly) but is usually ten days to two weeks (10 to 14 calendar days). Warning notices give homeowners in every case the opportunity to avoid violation fines by timely addressing the cause of the violation.
If an inspection after the “cure date” discovers that the violation has not been resolved, a notice of fine assessment will be mailed to that owner. Fines will continue until the violation is cured. Usually, if additional violation warnings are necessary the fines increase with each new warning. In some cases, fines may be assessed daily. In many cases repeating a violation within twelve (12) months of the original violation warning notice will result in an immediate fine being levied against the owner.
My violation seems to be relatively minor. Doesn’t Association management have more important things to do?
Many of the rules of your Homeowners Association can be found in the most basic governing document of your Association, the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCR’s) for your HOA. Other rules have been put in place over time based on the authority that same document gives to the Board of Directors. By law, each homeowner is provided these documents upon purchasing a home that is in a Homeowner’s Association.
I know of other residents whose violations are more grievous or annoying than mine. Why don’t you address their issue, first?
Our goal is to address all violations. Invariably, we will hear this question when someone receives a violation, or we will hear that other people did it first, etc. The bottom line is that if you are in violation of the rules and we can identify that you are the violator, or the owner of an address that is in violation, the violation should be cured as soon as possible. Rules of an Association do not give the HOA Manager authority to determine whether one violation is more important than another.
Is there an appeals process, if I disagree with the violation warning?
Violations cannot be appealed, as such, but if you feel you were fined inappropriately, Texas State Law (Section 209) allows for a hearing with the Board of Directors to present your side of the story. Bear in mind, the Board will listen to your concerns, but such a hearing does not obligate the Board to agree with your reasoning. You may always ask for a clarification of your violation by contacting your HOA Manager. Please remember that neither the HOA Manager nor any individual Board member or Officer may authorize you to remain in violation of a rule.
What happens if I just ignore the Violation Notice?
Generally, after the correction deadline stated on your violation, you will receive a Notice of Fine Assessment which will inform you that a fine will be posted to your Association account, and inform you of the amount of the fine so that you may immediately remit payment.
If your HOA is a Condominium Association this fine amount will be deducted from any future dues payment(s), as provided by Texas law, and you may be subject to late fees and legal collection efforts. This is because the amount left owing on your account will be outstanding dues, not an outstanding fine. Proactively taking the proper steps to cure the violation is the simplest and easiest way to halt the violation process.
Am I being “singled out,” or held to a different standard than others? Why embarrass me?
Instinctively, it is “human nature” to feel defensive in a situation that can be inconvenient, embarrassing or can result in consequences such as monetary penalties. While certain individuals are more prone to violate Association rules than other owners, no one is being singled out or purposely inconvenienced.
The violation process exists not only to enforce the rules, but to educate homeowners on the rules of their particular HOA. While violations can legally be made public, this is not the current policy of the majority of Associations. Usually, no one outside of Management or the Board will know of your violation unless you choose to make it known to them.
What if I have other questions?
If you have questions after receiving a violation warning letter, or if you have been fined, you are always entitled to an explanation from your HOA Manager. Please bear in mind that it will not be up to that Manager to authorize an exception to the rules. Managers can only provide you with information about your particular violation and what can be done to avoid such violations, in the future.