Real Estate

Disputes and Homeowners' Associations

Homeowners' associations (HOA) are groups of homeowners living in a real estate development that enforce restrictions and maintain common areas. Condominium and town home developments and newer single-family subdivisions have HOAs. The board of directors governs the HOA. The board is elected by the owners.

Administrative Hearing System

Disagreements between owners and directors or owners can lead to costly lawsuits. An administrative hearing system is set up to avoid lawsuits.

Your HOA hearing system must conform to local laws and meet the needs of your development. Bylaws should clearly state that the administrative remedy must be pursued before it's heard in court.

Dispute Procedures

Dispute procedures say the person who is being complained about is served with a written statement of the charges along with a notice about his right to request a hearing. The notice of the right to a hearing should state that:

  • A hearing must be requested within 15 days or else the right is waived
  • The person has a right to an attorney


The parties are entitled to get names and addresses of witnesses, and inspect and make a copy of any statements, writings and investigative reports important to the hearing.

The association's president then appoints typically three members to hear the complaint. This is a tribunal and its members can't be directors, related to either party, neighbors of the parties, witnesses to the complaint or persons investigating the complaint.

The tribunal elects a chairman and appoints a recorder who presents evidence and records the proceedings. Also on hand is a legally trained hearing officer who rules on the admissibility of evidence and advises on matters of law. The hearing should not occur sooner than ten days after receipt of notice.

Each party can call and examine witnesses, question credibility and dispute evidence. The hearing is somewhat informal and open to all association members.

Findings and Recommendations

After the hearing, the tribunal prepares a report of facts and recommendations for the board's consideration. The board may use all the tribunal's recommendations or reduce the proposed punishment and adopt the rest of the recommendations. They aren't allowed to apply harsher actions than recommended by the tribunal.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What should I do if I feel the hearing on my dispute with the HOA wasn't fair?
  • My homeowners' association makes audio recording of dispute hearings. Is this informal method of documenting such hearings legal?
  • Can a board impose more stringent disciplinary action for a homeowner than the HOA tribunal recommends?
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