Much of the upkeep related to your property – mowing the lawn, shoveling snow – will likely be taken care of for you. And because most HOAs have relatively strict rules governing the physical changes that can be made to the properties within its community, you’ll probably never experience the sort of eyesores that can be common in non-HOA neighborhoods: front lawns that are overgrown with weeds, say, or rusted cars propped up on cinderblocks in a neighbor’s driveway.
Of course, the rules and regulations that govern an HOA community (they’re known as covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CC&Rs) cut both ways. If your community, building or subdivision happens to be run by an HOA with an iron fist, you may very well find yourself on the business end of a substantial fine, or even a lawsuit, if you deign to disobey any of its CC&Rs.
Why Would My HOA Fine or Sue Me?
Perhaps you’re being fined for owning a pet that the HOA deems too large. Maybe you’re being threatened with expulsion because you updated your front door with a shade of paint that wasn’t previously approved. Or maybe you served with a lawsuit after hanging your laundry outside to dry one too many times.
If any of those scenarios sound familiar, you need to find an HOA litigation attorney in Bucks County. We are, after all, talking about your home. This is one instance in which a bus stop bench lawyer is not going to cut it. You need an attorney who has fought this very fight before, preferably more than once.
Here’s what to look for:
A Real Estate Attorney Who Is Current on HOA Regulations
As planned communities have grown in popularity over the years, so too has the complexity of the legal disputes connected to these communities. It’s important to bear in mind that HOA-related legal issues are often far different, and sometimes much more complicated, than is traditional real estate law. Make sure the attorney you hire is familiar with the preparation of governing documents for HOAs, covenant enforcement, and fair housing amendment violation claims.
An Attorney Who Will Assist With Mediation or Arbitration
Whether you’re having a problem with your HOA or your HOA is having a problem with you, it’s worth remembering that litigation doesn’t necessarily need to be your first move. No one likes being tangled up in legal tape for months (or years) at a time, which is why most HOAs will consent to arrange for mediation or arbitration in lieu of going straight to the courthouse.
Depending on the specific situation you’re dealing with—and perhaps depending on the relationship you have with the HOA and its board—you may be able to hammer out a compromise. You might also be able to initiate an amendment to the CC&Rs. How? HOA boards generally hold meetings from time to time at which residents are welcome. If a change to the rules is on your agenda, an HOA board meeting would be a good place to start.
As far as mediation or arbitration are concerned, however, having a Bucks County real estate lawyer with up-to-date HOA knowledge on your side can be a priceless asset. A real estate attorney can guide and counsel you in advance of your mediation or arbitration meeting. And in some instances, he or she may even be allowed to be present during the proceedings.
Is It a Mistake to Fight My HOA?
If there’s one common complaint we hear over and over again from people who live in HOA-governed communities, it’s the fact that HOA boards are often unresponsive to the concerns and frustrations of their community’s homeowners. If you suspect that your HOA board is acting in an irresponsible manner—or not acting at all, as the case may be—why shouldn’t you stand up tall and demand that your concerns be heard?
The real estate attorneys at Benner & Wild can keep you well informed of the changes in HOA laws, and can give you priceless advice on how best to deal with whichever unfortunate situation you’re currently experiencing. Indeed, our lawyers provide general legal services, counseling, and litigation assistance to homeowners associations, condominiums, planned communities, and property management companies throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania.
We handle a full range of issues for our planned community clients, including the preparation of governing documents, amendments and revisions, covenant enforcement, fair housing amendment violation claims and assessment collection. We provide competent, experienced real estate litigation representation at every level—from administrative forums to federal court.
Contact us today to learn more about how Benner & Wild can help you handle your HOA.