Moving into a well-maintained community with a homeowners association can help to protect your home value, but coming up against unwanted rules or fees can be a frustrating pain in the budget. If you are having difficulties with your homeowners association, it may be time to file a complaint.
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What is a Homeowners Association?
A homeowners association is a board formed and run by a community. It helps to maintain the uniformity and appearance of a neighborhood. Similar associations also exist for condominiums and apartment buildings. The homeowners associations establish and vote on rules for the community to abide by. These rules usually affect the appearance of homes and yards, and define the types of activities you can do in the front of the home. Homeowners can actively participate in their homeowners associations by attending board meetings, voting on community issues, and running for open seats on the board.
Filing a Complaint
Start by filing a dispute with your homeowners association about the issue. It may be something that can be cleared up before taking complaints to a higher office. If you are already past this point, look to local authorities first. Contact your city hall to see if a commission or local ombudsman is in place to take homeowners association complaints. Usually, you will need to fill out a complaint form and wait for the ombudsman to look into the matter. The ombudsman may try to work out a compromise between you and the homeowners association, or may rule in one or the other's favor. If this doesn't work out, you may want to contact state and federal groups.
Check with Different Agencies
Some states have specific offices set up in relation to homeowners associations. For example, Colorado has the HOA Information and Resource Center, under the management of the Division of Real Estate, which collects information from homeowners associations "from the inquires and complaints received." There are no established nationwide agencies specifically tasked with handling homeowners association complaints. For complaints regarding discrimination, harassment and unfair fees, you can contact the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It has offices in a number of regions around the country. The Federal Trade Commission is a federal office that can accept complaints about unfair business practices, deceptive advertising and unfair debt collection. The agency says: "The FTC cannot resolve individual consumer complaints, but we have tips to help you get your money back."
Filing a Lawsuit
Agreements with homeowners associations are often considered contracts in the eyes of the law, so you may be forced to file a lawsuit to fight unwanted guidelines or fees. It can be difficult to get a ruling in your favor, especially if you knew about the homeowners association guidelines before purchasing the home. A lawyer who specializes in real estate law can help you determine if it might be possible to get a positive outcome from a lawsuit.