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When To Bend Your HOA’s Rules for an Owner’s Bad Fortune

Mike Hunter quoted in article raising questions about recreational vehicles 12/22/2017

Have any of your owners experienced a hardship recently? Would you even know how to define that term if it were raised? In this week’s tip, we give you a start on addressing the issue by answering a reader’s question.

An reader writes, “What flexibility does a board have to extend a time frame for engaging in a certain activity for the reasons of a hardship when that activity has specific dates during which it may not be engaged? This is in relation to living in an RV on the owners’ undeveloped lot, when living in RVs is limited to May 1 to October 31.”

Good question. Here, we answer our reader’s question and the question of whether and when “hardship” can be grounds for other enforcement waivers.

It’s easiest to start with the straightforward part of this topic—recreational vehicles.

“The thing with RVs is that most communities view them as eyesores,” reports Mike Hunter, an attorney and partner at Horack Talley in Charlotte, N.C., who represents associations, “That’s why they’re not allowed.”

But it appears our reader’s HOA does permit them to be parked on its grounds for part of the year. The question is whether an unfinished home qualifies as a hardship for which the board might grant an exception.

“I don’t know exactly what the reader’s situation is,” cautions Tim O’Keefe, a director at KW Property Management & Consulting in Miami, which manages about 300 community associations in Florida. “For example, if this reader is in Florida and the home isn’t finished because of damage from Hurricane Irma, that’s one thing. Maybe the storm wiped everybody out for six weeks, which means the time for this home to be built has bled past the end of October. It’s incumbent on the board to decide whether to make that exception.”

That’s how Michael Kim, who, through his Chicago law firm, Michael C. Kim & Associates, represents about 500 associations, is also evaluating the reader’s question. “Maybe owners are in the middle of construction and a major storm hits and throws the schedule off,” he explains. “But if the owners or contractors are just taking their time or don’t seem to be serious about getting the job done, that’s another issue.

“The board can usually grant an exception, but its ability can be limited by the governing documents or a statute—but typically it’s the documents—and you usually can’t grant the exception for more than 30 or 60 days,” adds Kim. “If, in this example, the contractors are going to finish up in a reasonable time, it usually doesn’t make sense in terms of time or money to file a lawsuit to enforce the rules.”

But be careful before making more than exception here and there and for good reason. Find out why in our new article:

About's attorney editors and experienced journalists constantly research the latest developments affecting homeowner associations across the U.S. Then we publish plain-English analyses of what those developments mean to you, and what you need to do now to steer clear of legal trouble, avoid or resolve conflicts within your association, and safeguard your community's property values and quality of life.

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