As an HOA manager or board member, resolving resident complaints effectively within your community is essential. Taking care of complaints protects everyone in your community, and failing to do so can lead to dissatisfied residents and a less harmonious neighborhood.
Implementing a few proactive strategies and processes ensures you hear residents' concerns, find resolutions, and keep communication channels open. The following insights and steps can help you successfully navigate and resolve HOA complaints.
Open Up Communication Channels
Many residents within a community work full-time jobs, leaving them with little free time, and community or HOA meetings don’t always rank high on the agenda. However, many residents may still feel frustrated with a lack of communication about upcoming maintenance projects and other HOA-related issues.
When considering resolving HOA complaints and preventing a communication breakdown, start by creating a community-wide email, physical mail newsletter, or a dedicated online platform where residents can easily submit their questions, concerns, and suggestions. Encourage open dialogue by organizing regular online town hall meetings or Q&A sessions for residents who can’t attend in person but want to participate and directly express their complaints.
Additionally, use other communication methods, such as posting physical signs on the streets ahead of time for certain projects, such as road resurfacing, to ensure that residents know what is happening and how it will impact them even if they haven’t seen the newsletter or website updates.
Establish a Complaint Resolution Process
When residents file a complaint, it's essential to listen and acknowledge the issue and keep in contact so the resident knows the latest resolution status. Listen to the resident's concerns and ask probing questions to understand the problem thoroughly. It helps to demonstrate empathy by acknowledging the resident's perspective and assuring them that their complaint is being taken seriously and that a process exists for resolution.
A homeowner might file a complaint with the HOA about excessive noise from their neighbor's property. If they have no contact person or insight into the process, it may appear that everything needs to be resolved, and the resident will become frustrated or angry.
HOA administrators can create a process for complaint resolution that includes the following:
- A designated point of contact for the resident, such as a property manager or HOA board member
- A complaint form that homeowners can complete to initiate the complaint and resolution process
- A handout for the resident that clearly outlines the steps involved, including an investigation, communication, and resolution timeframe
If the association's governing documents address noise complaints, such as a 10:00 p.m. noise curfew, document this outcome, how the HOA intends to notify the offending resident, and any other steps toward resolution. Additionally, communicate these updates to the resident who filed the complaint.
Conduct Thorough Investigations
When receiving complaints from homeowners, first check with the association's attorney or state and federal law related to the complaint. You might quickly find a clear resolution. Depending on the issue, the law or HOA rules may offer vague or no resolution. In that case, the investigation might need a different fix, such as hiring a professional service provider if the problem is outside the knowledge scope of the HOA.
For example, say that several homeowners have reported recurring flood problems in their basements after heavy rainstorms. Conduct a thorough investigation by inspecting the properties and surrounding stormwater drainage components.
Additionally, work to identify potential blockages or inadequacies in the community's overall system to manage stormwater and collect relevant information such as rainfall patterns and historic flood incidents. Combining and analyzing this information can shed light on the root cause of the problem and give guidance on an appropriate solution.
Communicate Proactively and Transparently
How to resolve HOA complaints? Proactively and with transparent communication. When an upcoming change affects the community residents, such as an HOA fee increase, special assessment, or a change in amenities such as pool access hours, letting residents know beforehand can save frustration and build trust. Let's say that a group of residents voices their concerns about a significant increase in monthly HOA fees, saying they have yet to receive prior notice or explanation. Prompt communication in response to all homeowners can provide a valid explanation and soothe frustrations.
Through a community-wide announcement or dedicated newsletter, the HOA can clearly explain the reasons for the fee increase, with details on any necessary improvements or maintenance projects that need additional funding. In the newsletter, addressing some homeowner questions and providing a budget or breakdown of how the HOA will allocate the increased fees is helpful.
Collaborate with Residents
Some issues, such as limited parking spaces within a community, are harder to resolve because often, more room is needed to add additional open or guest parking. In this scenario, consider soliciting suggestions from residents.
Using the parking space example, suppose multiple residents have expressed frustration over insufficient parking spaces within the community. The HOA can organize a community workshop or committee to facilitate residents joining together and actively participating in finding a solution.
Offer options for discussion, such as implementing a parking permit system, reevaluating the allocation of parking spaces, or exploring alternative parking arrangements. When you involve residents in problem-solving and decision-making, they will feel their concerns are heard and take a vested interest in finding a resolution that meets the community's needs.
Take Preventive Measures for Resolution
When discussing how to resolve HOA complaints, sometimes it's easiest to implement simple preventative measures, and resolving the issue does not warrant the time investment of resident meetings and discussions. A common problem is pet waste. Suppose several homeowners have reported ongoing instances of improperly handled pet waste in their yards or the association’s common areas.
The HOA can Implement preventive measures by installing pet waste bags and disposal stations throughout the community. Additionally, send out educational materials about the neighborhood and environmental impacts of improperly disposed pet waste. Consider organizing a community-wide campaign to raise awareness about responsible pet owners and the importance of cleaning up after pets.
Seek Professional Guidance if Needed
In some cases, investigating a problem is outside the scope of the HOA staff, or the community may be self-managed. Specific complaints may require additional guidance to resolve.
Suppose a homeowner has raised concerns about stormwater runoff causing erosion near their yard. The HOA may need a stormwater system engineer or similarly qualified professional to assess the issue and recommend a resolution. A professional can thoroughly analyze the problem and work with the HOA board to implement an effective solution.
Empathy, Proactivity, and Transparency Go a Long Way
Proactively enhancing your community's complaint resolution processes can foster transparency, trust, and collaboration among residents. Resolving problems requires a commitment to finding the best solution, such as bringing in professional help for a storm water inspection or other services.
A well-managed HOA that empathizes with its homeowners' concerns and takes appropriate action can cultivate a harmonious and collaborative living environment. Protect your residents and get expert help in repairing and maintaining your association's stormwater management system by calling CatchAll Environmental today.