Life in a condo that has a homeowners association, or HOA, can be great; you don't have to worry about some of the responsibilities you'd deal with in a single family house. However, there might be restrictions and rules about what you're able to do, even though you own a unit. You may run into trouble with the HOA and end up with a major dispute over your actions. If that happens, you'll need to do the following.
Understand the Rules
Before you purchased the condo, you were likely given and asked to sign the HOA guidelines or the CC&Rs (convenants, conditions and restrictions). You may very well be in violation without realizing, in which case you will have to deal with the consequences.
This is true in many cases even when the CC&Rs were updated after you moved in and you weren't aware of those changes. Your HOA can claim you should have known about any updates. You may, however, have a good legal case if the new rules are retroactive; for instance, if you moved in with a pet and the HOA has now forbidden them, you should still be able to keep your dog.
Communicate in Writing
Your first impulse may be not to communicate at all with the HOA until you've gotten a lawyer. However, ignoring HOA correspondence can make things worse for you. They can assume that you're taking no action and move forward with penalties and other negative consequences.
Most of your communication should be written down. Having a trail of paper is vital when you ask questions, respond or otherwise communicate with the HOA or one of the board directors directly. Being able to prove what was said and show that you attempted to resolve the situation in a professional manner can help you if you should later take the matter to court.
Keep Paying Dues
You might be so angry about what's happening that you stop paying dues. This is not a great decision, as your HOA will then have further grounds to act against you. Even if you end up suing them and prevailing, you might very well need to repay those fees plus interest. Whatever else is happening, ensure your dues remain current.
A disagreement with your HOA doesn't have to become nasty. An attorney with homeowners association experience can guide your actions so the situation can be rectified without too much delay.
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