Living in a peaceful, friendly residential community is very fulfilling. Some would say it is a basic necessity. Yet, we are all human and sometimes co-habitating can be challenging, especially when residents are in close proximity to one another. Homeowners and HOAs alike may not be sure the best way to remedy, or diffuse, a situation.
Association best practices
Residents often wonder if police can enforce HOA rules. Homeowners associations create rules to keep the peace and foster safety, and their job is to enforce them. Or, they hire a property management company to enforce them. In addition, there are some best practices condo and townhome associations can implement when it comes to getting village law enforcement support.
- Work with police on community safety and crime prevention. One way to do this is to have them speak on key topics at HOA board meetings once, twice, or more per year.
- Involve your association in any village crime free programs. They may have classes or certifications for landlords or residents.
- Collect proof and documentation on issues whenever possible, in case they ever escalate and become court matters.
- Have an HOA rule enforcement plan. For instance, issue violation letters every time a rule is broken.
- Ask police to patrol your association. If it is a private drive, police will generally stay away unless asked.
- Step aside in matters involving the police. It is best to allow homeowners to hash things out themselves.
When your neighbor is causing trouble
Can police enforce HOA rules? If the behavior is not illegal, the answer is “no”. Here’s what to do if your HOA is not enforcing association rules. In either case, whether your neighbor is doing something illegal or simply violating an association rule, document and gather proof. Your HOA or property management company will not send violation letters based on hearsay, and police cannot do much without evidence.
If you know someone is doing something illegal, call the police. If a homeowner is selling drugs or partying too loudly or violently, call the police as soon as you can. Take photos or a video, or get them there while it is happening. The mistake homeowners often make is calling the HOA first, but this will slow down the process. It is not an association’s or property manager’s responsibility to resolve illegal issues, or to call the police on something they weren’t there to witness. Further, your association board or property management is not likely to pick sides, as this tends to make things worse.
If you see something, say something. If you feel your safety is at risk or you are uncomfortable, call the police. That is what they are there for. And go to your property management company when someone violates a rule, bylaw, or declaration. But they aren’t likely to come out if your neighbor’s noise is bothering you. According to HOAleader.com, Joe Winkler, vice president of marketing at Keystone Pacific Property Management in Irvine, CA, points out,
“It’s very dangerous to mix up the HOA’s authority with the police department’s authority.”
Crime prevention in your community
If you are interested in preserving or improving safety and peace in your community, consider putting together a community watch. As a first step, talk to your association board, as they will likely create a sub-committee to help you. Also involve the police in the process. You can also urge your HOA to consider additional security measures.