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Ask the HOA Expert: ADA Compliance, Cracked Windows, Rules Violation Policies

Written by Richard Thompson
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Question: I have a question regarding HOA regulations in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Are HOAs required to provide a sign language interpreter for a deaf HOA member at meetings?

Answer: ADA requires HOAs to make "reasonable accommodations." That means that the HOA would not prohibit a resident from using disability related equipment and assists. This usually affects parking and access however can extend to other disability accommodations. Requiring the HOA to provide and pay for a special service like this one exceeds the "reasonableness" condition.

However, the HOA can voluntarily provide such services and a deaf member should be allowed to bring a sign language interpreter to the meeting.

Question: I am an ex-Treasurer of our HOA. The current President and Treasurer are an engaged couple. Each is a homeowner. Should they both be allowed to be signers on the HOA bank accounts? What accounting records am I entitled to see?

Answer: As long as both the Treasurer and President each own a unit, they are both entitled to serve on the Board. It's up to the Board to decide who serves in what office. It is common practice for the President and Treasurer to be signers on the HOA bank accounts. You are free to express your concerns about this arrangement but barring convincing evidence of wrongdoing, raising this issue is bound to imply wrongdoing and cause hard feelings. Tread carefully. As a matter of good management practice, the HOA should carry fidelity insurance to help safeguard against fraud and embezzlement.

As an HOA member, you have the right to review all financial records with exception of confidential ones like collection activity on members. Requesting a special delivery of financial records is not reasonable unless you are willing to pay for staff time and copy costs. You do have the right to arrange an appointment and go to the place where records are kept and review them. You should expect to pay for reasonable copying costs.

Question: In an HOA, who typically pays for a cracked window (called a "stress crack" by the window repair company)? Our CC&R's require the HOA to cover repairs and maintenance of "exterior finishes" but windows are not specifically mentioned.

Answer: Usually, window repair is an owner responsibility unless the governing documents indicate otherwise or the problem is related to structural settling. If structural settling caused the cracked window, the HOA should do the repair and stabilize the structural issue as soon as possible. Of course, if the crack is present in this unit, other units should be checked for similar problems.

Question: We are trying to formulate our rules violation policies. Who should receive complaints from residents about rule violations, the Board or the paid manager?

Answer: The manager should process complaints. However, the Board must adopt policies and procedures so the manager knows how to respond. If those policies are in place, the manager simply executes them (the policies, not the rule violators).

Neither the Board nor manager should automatically accept a complaint. If this is a first time complaint about a neighbor, the complainer should be required to first take the matter directly to that neighbor both in person and in writing rather than expect the HOA to do the dirty work. That way, the manager knows that reasonable action was taken to resolve the issue before it was presented for resolution to the HOA.

If this has been done, the manager should accept the complaint in writing with precise details which include the time and events together with copies of correspondence between the neighbors. That way, the manager knows that the complainer took personal action to resolve the issue.

If the complainer is not willing to put the matter in writing to both the offender and the manager, the manager can assume it's not important enough for the HOA to deal with. Of course, there can be extenuating circumstances, like a aggressive or violent neighbor. The manager can make the judgment whether to intercede or not.

The manager may have a question from time to time on how to proceed with a complaint. Specific direction should be provided by the Board President. Aside from this, the manager should have authority to handle most matters. This is one of the great advantages of having professional management ... not having to enforce rules on neighbors.

Finally, not all complaints are the HOA's responsibility to do something about. For example, if spouses are having violent altercations, it's a matter for the police and the complainer should be directed that way.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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