By: Elina B. Gilbert, Esq.

With more people home now than ever before, many associations are struggling with increased complaints and violations pertaining to noise, obnoxious behavior, odors, and the like.  As wonderful as it would be to have all residents comply with their communities’ rules, it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve such compliance.

When courtesy letters don’t cut it, associations turn to their enforcement policies and follow the steps set forth therein.  Most, if not all, enforcement policies contain fine structures and processes for imposing such fines.  Now is a good time to review your fine structures and ensure they are actually doing the job they are intended to do.

Below are some key indicators you can use to determine if your fine structure is working:

Signs that your fines do NOT work

  • There is no decrease in the number of violations in the community
  • Owners are paying the fines but continuing to violate the covenants and rules
  • Your association is oftentimes resorting to legal action to enforce the covenants and rules
  • You’ve been told by legal counsel that the fines are “uncollectible” because they were not lawfully imposed (or for other reasons)

If you checked one or more items above, chances are your fine structure is not as effective as it can be and you should consider updating the fines to provide your community with better results.  Consider the following:

  • Are your fines high enough? For example, is it less expensive for an owner to pay the fine and continue violating the covenants then to come into compliance?  If so, your fines are not high enough.
  • Are you affording notice and opportunity for hearing to your owners prior to imposing every fine? If not, your fines may not be collectible because the owners are not receiving the due process required by law.
  • Are you following your enforcement policy for all violations? If not, this may impact the enforceability of your fines.
  • Are you uniformly imposing fines? In other words, are all violators being treated the same way with respect to fines?  If not, your fines may be viewed by owners as “risks” rather than “definitive consequences”.

Signs that your fines ARE working

  • You’ve seen an increase in compliance
  • There are less repeat offenders (i.e. once you’ve fined an owner, that owner does not repeat the violation or violate other covenants or rules)
  • You are spending less on legal fees for covenant enforcement actions

Reviewing your fine structure on a regular basis using the above indicators will help ensure your community is getting the most out of its enforcement policy and is getting closer to its quest for voluntary compliance.

Do not hesitate to contact an Altitude Community Law attorney at 303.432.9999 if you have any additional questions about your fine structure.

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