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Resolving a conflict with your homeowners' association

Many Floridians live in condominiums, townhouse complexes or other communities where rules are established and enforced by a community association like a homeowners' association (HOA). These rules are typically outlined in a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). Most people store what is often a massive document away until there's a problem.

Homeowners may find themselves at odds with their HOA and/or the property management company hired by that HOA to handle the upkeep of the community when they feel another resident is violating the CC&Rs. Maybe you're the one accused of violating the CC&Rs. Perhaps you've installed a color of blinds that violates a provision that all outwardly visible window coverings be a neutral shade.

Whatever the situation, if you're doing battle with your HOA, you may feel like the underdog. It can be highly frustrating. It pays to be smart and methodical when dealing with your association and its board members. Here are a few tips:

Know the rules

If you're accused of violating one, read it carefully. If you don't feel that you're violating it, follow the dispute resolution process. This often involves a hearing with the HOA board. There's likely little point in arguing that the rule is unfair. CC&Rs are typically changed only through a vote of the homeowners.

Keep a paper trail

It's best to deal with the matter in writing, even if it means recapping a phone conversation in an email. This will also help you ensure that everyone who needs to be informed receives the same information. Disputes can continue for months or even years while HOA board members come and go. Having written documentation of everything you've done to try to resolve the issue can be invaluable.

Remain courteous

Many issues -- particularly those between neighbors -- can be resolved once each understands the other's point of view. Even if it's not that simple, yelling at people or insulting them likely isn't going to help your case. If you have a hearing, be respectful to everyone and calmly make your case.

Continue to pay your HOA dues

Withholding them is only going to cause you more trouble.

Taking your association and the property management company to court is generally a last resort. However, it may be the only one you have left. Talk with an experienced attorney who can provide guidance regarding your particular situation.

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