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Compliance Notice


If a warning is insufficient, the next step is a compliance notice. The notice should comply with


the specific due process procedures for the community. This might include a pre-scheduled hearing, or alternatively a right to request a hearing by a given deadline. Cite the actual provisions violated, and provide specifics about the violations—dates, times, etc. Do not use a threatening tone—this will likely escalate emotions, which are already high. Do not use email exclusively: Send a hard copy, either mailed (check to make sure if certified mailing is required) or personally delivered. Be mindful of deadlines in the compliance procedures. Reserve the right to charge back costs as leverage: Provide details about potential consequences for continued non-compliance for the same reason. Be sure the fine amount corresponds with the current fine schedule and is reasonable.


Do not use a threatening tone—this will likely escalate already high emotions.


Due Process


Be sure to follow due process procedures before fining. All community association statutes require “notice and opportunity to be heard” before fining. This is generally understood to include written notice and a right to attend a hearing before the board. Accordingly, even if your governing documents do not mention a hearing, at minimum, provide a right to request one. If fining has already occurred without a hearing, provide a retroactive one.


Cross Complaints


In a situation involving “cross-complaints” between neighbors, it might be difficult to tell who—if any—is engaging in non-compliant


behaviors. In those situations, it may be helpful as a practical matter (and to determine credibility) to schedule a Zoom meeting inviting all involved parties, with the association’s counsel acting as facilitator. Another option is to provide low-cost mediation options for the parties, including the WSCAI Mediation Program, wscai.org/ wscai-mediation-program. One way to help urge the parties to participate in mediation is by offering to pay for the cost. Further, if there are concerns about illegal behavior, direct complainants to the police, including providing the non-emergency number.


Hearing


While hearings are a required “box” to check, they can prove valuable in coming up with practical solutions and to open a meaningful dialogue. When scheduling the hearing, consider meeting virtually. It is easier to schedule and makes people more comfortable for the time being. To avoid a lengthy hearing with a lot of disruptions, set parameters ahead of time.


Treat the hearing as a collaborative problem solving meeting.


The board does not have to answer questions, but is encouraged to allow the involved parties to speak a reasonable amount to ensure a feeling that they were “heard.” To reduce tension, one option is to treat the hearing as a collaborative meeting to problem solve together, with the attorney acting as mediator. Be sure to discuss practical solutions, which could include for example, use of area rugs, compliance with quiet hours, smoking outside, installing fans or air purifiers, or installing insulation. Another issue to explore is finding a way for the involved parties to informally communicate with each other when a violation is occurring, such as texting (rather than pounding on walls and ceilings).


Find a way for the involved parties to informally communicate.


Post-Hearing Decision


Following the hearing, the board should make a prompt decision about next steps. Continued On Page 28 


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