Setting clear boundaries is a very important aspect of the relationship that the HOA Board has with its residents, but it can sometimes be difficult to establish boundaries, effectively while still keeping everything peaceful. Here’s a look at some of the more effective ways to inform HOA residents on outdoor and decorating regulations, ways to deal with complaints, and the type of outdoor boundaries that may need to be set with regard to structures and activities.
What to Say
When an HOA wants to set outdoor boundaries for residents, it’s often better to make compromises that everyone can be happy with. For example, an HOA may determine that the neighborhood must be kept uniform with landscaping and house colors, so the residents can’t make huge landscaping changes or paint their houses a color that is not approved by the association. As a compromise, they may be able to add structures such as pergolas or gazebos to their backyards, or paint their front door any color they want.
Saying something diplomatically, in writing, and directed at all residents is a much better way to set boundaries than giving orders and upsetting people with no reason or explanation. The HOA should try to keep residents happy, while still focusing on making sure the neighborhood looks the way it was intended to look.
Another important issue to consider is safety. The safety of the residents and any visitors to the area should always come first, and the HOA can often use that as a point worth noting when they are discussing regulations and requirements that not all residents may agree with. People are more likely to willingly comply when they understand that a ruling is made to keep others safe.
How to Handle Complaints
Complaints are inevitable. They are going to occur sometimes, no matter how careful an HOA is about making rulings or communicating information. When those complaints arise, how they are handled is going to make a significant difference in whether the resident complaining leaves feeling as though they were heard. When someone feels like they were really listened to and their concerns were noted and considered, they’re generally a lot happier than they would be if they felt that they were just dismissed. Even an HOA that isn’t going to make any changes should listen to what its residents are upset about. It may be that change is in order, and at least promising to investigate the issue — and then following up — will go a long way toward happy residents.
One of the biggest issues that HOAs often face is people wanting to change their landscaping. They may want to cut down trees or remove bushes, or they may want to plant those things. They might prefer a container garden instead of the grass in their front yard, or they may want to plant a lot of flowers instead of just having a lawn. All of those elements can look great in the right place, but when the neighborhood is designed to look uniform, those kinds of changes won’t be allowed. Still, it’s important to compromise and give residents some options.
Among the ways to hear what residents want and need is to allow them more freedom with their backyards. This keeps the front of the homes in the neighborhood looking very neat and uniform, but still allows residents to express themselves and enjoy some different options. Gardens, unique plants or flowers, and a change to something other than just a lawn can take place behind the homes, making it less obvious from the street and keeping residents happy, as well.
Outdoor structures, like pergolas and gazebos are another area of contention. People like to build things that they can enjoy in nice weather, or that they appreciate looking at. An HOA should understand that, but must also limit what can be built. By keeping these items in the backyard only, and by specifying things like the size, color and building materials used, the HOA can keep the neighborhood looking great and still allow the residents to have plenty of freedom to enjoy what they love. That’s an excellent way to set fair, workable boundaries.
Posted by Jeff Caldwell, Brand Manager, Superior Shelter