Most HOA member/board disputes can be settled outside the courtroom but, in reality, associations are always at risk of being sued. Although not the typical forum for most disputes, Small Claims Court is available according to some state civil codes. Taking the suit to Small Claims Court is usually a cheaper and faster option for the plaintiff. Some state laws and HOA rules require dispute resolution or mediation before going to court.
Below, we’ll discuss some of the most common reasons for small claims lawsuits against HOAs:
Two of the most common reasons for suits against an association result from failure to make needed repairs to units or upkeep of common elements in the community. Depending on the type of damage, the association is often be responsible for repair, regardless of what may or may not be covered by insurance.
A homeowner will sometimes sue when their plans to make architectural or structural changes to their property are denied by the HOA.
Despite pet policies, many owners are quick to sue their HOA when it comes to matters regarding their pets.
Attorneys representing homeowners’ associations report discrimination as a common area of litigation. For example, a disabled person may sue for violations of the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act when they feel the HOA has failed install ramps, elevators, or other accommodations.
It’s not uncommon for lawsuits to arise when a board implements new services or expenditures requiring increased fees that members don’t want to pay.
These suits involve board member recalls and election disputes, when one member, or a group of HOA members, strongly oppose the assembled board.
With all the above scenarios to take into consideration, how can an HOA avoid being sued? HOAs can follow these few simple tips to limit the possibility of being sued by their members:
- Review Documents – HOAs should regularly review their association documents, guidelines, and CC&Rs to ensure that they are written clearly and precisely. Make sure that the rules and regulations are fair, enforceable, and properly updated as needed. Members should always be informed of any notable changes made!
- Perform Regular Maintenance – Don’t wait until a lawsuit has been filed to make needed repairs to units or common spaces. Not only will proper maintenance keep potential lawsuits at bay – your members will be happier and more open to resolving disputes outside the courtroom.
- Pick your Battles – According to some lawyers, many lawsuits result in mere stubbornness on the part of the association. Personal preferences, grudges, or pride should never impair judgment on matters that could easily be solved without any litigation.
While potential suits are always a possibility for any association, the good news is that with knowledge and preparation, many potential lawsuits can be either avoided altogether or resolved before going to court. For assistance resolving issues within your community association, contact Spectrum Association Management and see what makes us a refreshingly different HOA management company.
Related: 10 Tips for HOA Insurance