RV Parking Could Cost your HOA $500,000!


A few years ago a homeowner in Clearwater Florida was awarded attorneys’ fees and costs totaling over $187,000 in a lawsuit filed against them by The Eagles Master Association, their HOA. The HOA spent $300,000 on it’s own legal fees in its failed attempt to pursue the homeowner in court. The issue? – The homeowners were parking a truck in their driveway that the HOA said violated the HOA’s CC&Rs. 

The case is a cautionary tale to HOA boards when it comes to accurately informing homeowners about RV restrictions, consistent and timely enforcing of those restrictions, knowing when to litigate, and just generally knowing how to communicate with homeowners.


Five suggestions to avoid the fate of the Eagles HOA

1. Develop an “Owner Friendly” reputation as an HOA board.

This does not mean to be permissive when it comes to violations or your HOA’s covenants and restriction. However, a polite respectful tone and demeanor from the HOA board over RV issues can have an enormous impact on the cooperation received from owners. There are recalcitrant people that will never be reasonable, but often the homeowner feels violated, not primarily because of the restriction, but by the unnecessarily authoritarian, condescending, and judgmental tone or action from the HOA board members.

Simply stating that you are an “Owner Friendly” HOA can make a difference. Consider writing an article in the next HOA newsletter outlining the board’s new owner friendly philosophy. Rewrite all of the HOA notices to be overtly kind friendly. Where appropriate, consider phone calls or face-to-face conversations for initial violation warnings. A written notice in the mail or on the door doesn’t give the homeowner a voice to explain or readily acquiesce to the HOA’s demand. The homeowner simply feels like they are “in trouble”, and their human response will often be to become defensive or combative.

2. Issue RV warnings before fines

If your covenants and restrictions don’t allow for multiple RV warning notices before fines, change them! Most CC&Rs or bylaws give the board the ability to fine the homeowners. It’s an essential tool for enforcement; no HOA wants to pursue legal action for every code violation. Problems arise when fines are exorbitant or a fine is the first line of defense used by the board.

The RV may be an eyesore, but the goals of the board should be long term. Warnings allow an opportunity for polite discussion, and correction of honest misunderstandings or mistakes. You do not want to be the board that fines a homeowner only later to discover that the homeowner’s spouse had just died and the RV was a visiting family member here for the funeral, and they simply weren’t thinking about the 24-hour RV restriction or whatever restriction they might be violating.

3. Make RV fines reasonable and known

Publish your fine schedule publicly and repeatedly, perhaps as a quarterly addendum to your newsletter (again, use kind language, not authoritarian bombast). If all of the owners are aware of the RV rules and aware of the RV violation fines, then warnings can start looking like the board acting reasonably – doing it’s best to avoid fining owners.

It’s also important to set fine rates that offer deterrent, that don’t impose unreasonable hardship, and that are defensible if and when you are forced into court. Fines for RV violations in an HOA with modest homes vs. an HOA with multi-million dollar homes needs to be radically different, and you may need to alter your fine schedule if your community changes. A $20 fine in a community with multi-million dollar homes will certainly annoy the owner, but will probably give the owner little incentive to alter their behavior. Conversely in a community with modest homes, a $300 RV fine may actually cause financial hardship to the owner. Financially stressed owners can be extremely volatile and difficult to manage.

4. Enforce the rules in a consistent and timely manner

The board absolutely must enforce the RV rules consistently. Inconsistent enforcement leads to righteous indignation on the part of the homeowners, and makes winning in court nearly impossible. Also, the board should have a schedule for the enforcement progression. In the Tampa example, the HOA waited years between an exchange of letters with the homeowner and the HOA’s surprise legal action. They had also made allowances for other homeowners that were not afforded the homeowner they sued. This sloppy RV restriction enforcement lead to bad feelings, and ultimately to the HOA losing it’s battle in court.

5. Create mediation committees.

Committees can offer a voice to the homeowner, and can paint the HOA in a less legalistic draconian light. They allow for conversation and dialogue where the HOA can explain it’s position and it’s motivations – even if explanation is not legally required, it can be enormously helpful. They also allow the homeowner to explain to a captive audience the reasons for the violation or the reasons they don’t think they are in any violation.

Forming a new committee and trying to drum up even more volunteers to work with the HOA may seem like a daunting task, but if it helps your HOA get your violations down to a manageable number and avoids potentially expensive lawsuits, then it will be time well spent and the quality of life and resale value of your HOA properties will increase, and that’s generally the reason for your HOA in the first place!

This article contains general information. Individual situations are unique; please, consult your attorney before utilizing any of the information contained in this article.

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Source: Neighborhood Link
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