Question: Our current board is considering enforcing long standing architectural restrictions that previous boards failed to enforce. Should we grandfather existing violations or enforce the restrictions retroactively?
Answer: There is no "one answer fits all." There is never any automatic "grandfathering." The board needs to weigh each violation and its importance. The big ones may be worth fighting for, while minor ones are not. The board can compromise when it's in the best interest of the HOA and too expensive to litigate.
Question: When our HOA was developed years ago, the board allowed unit owners to customize the landscaping around their units even though the land was common area. Some have done it well, while others not so well or at all. Our current board is debating whether to return all landscape maintenance to the landscape contractor. What are the challenges?
Answer: Having professional landscape maintenance of landscaping installed by owners simply won't work. For the contractor to maintain the new area would require replacing the custom landscaping with a standardized maintenance plan.
One fundamental principle that will help guide your board in the future: No Board has authority to grant exclusive use of the general common area to any owner for any reason. This always must be approved by an appropriate vote of the members which could be 100 percent depending on how your governing documents read.
Question: Our board has been advised to steer clear of Neighborhood Watch type programs due to potential liability. Your opinion?
Answer: While an HOA needs to be careful not to boast of being "secure," the board needs to take reasonable precautions to make sure the common area is not attractive to criminals. This includes making sure there is adequate night light and landscaping and trees are trimmed to allow light to disperse and not conceal criminal activity. If there is entry access control (gates, doors), they should be maintained in good repair.
Participating in a criminal watch program not only makes sense, every HOA should encourage it. It does not mean iron clad security, only improved vigilance by the HOA members. Participation in such programs should be broadcast to members and criminals alike by notices and signs. Each year, a special meeting should be held to reacquaint the members with the program and renew heightened awareness.
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