Maintenance, repairs, upkeep and enforcement are all in a day’s work for a community association – now one of the most common forms of housing in North Carolina.

To date, nearly 27% of the state’s population live in some type of single-family home, townhouse, or condominium governed by a homeowners association, also known as HOA.

With its explosive growth and abundance of housing options, from affordable new homes to multi-million dollar gated neighborhoods, the Triangle has become a hotbed for these types of planned communities. In response, the company recently announced a dedicated team to help new and established association boards and directors in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding areas meet the challenges of running an HOA.

The Triangle team consists of a litigator Amy wooten, lawyer for business and community associations Madeline Lipé, real estate lawyer James todd, and lawyer in creditors law Thomas wolff. Each has a unique perspective to serve and guide a community association at all stages of development and through all types of disputes and conflicts.

I recently asked my colleagues to share the most important thing to know about HOAs. Here’s what they had to say:

“I would say one of the most important things community associations need to know and appreciate is that risk management is key!

Amy wooten, Litigation lawyer

It is essential that community associations take a proactive approach to managing the risks they may encounter for many reasons. One of these reasons is that proactive risk management can mitigate the risk of lawsuits against a community association or better position the community association to defend itself when litigation ensues. It can also better position a community association to deal with financial difficulties and other stressors that often arise when a community association is in a position where it is the party that must bring a dispute. In short, a community association’s risk management strategy should include seeking legal advice and guidance early on when a potential conflict or legal issue arises. To do this, the community association will have to invest in legal fees. However, in my experience, these dollars are well spent more often than not. While skipping this investment, among other negative consequences, tends to result in community associations incurring substantial legal costs that could have been avoided or significantly reduced had they been proactive in finding a lawyer.

“When faced with a question of community association, the starting point is almost always the same … start with the constitutive documents.

Madeline Lipé, Lawyer for business and community associations

The constitutive documents of a community association (declaration, statutes and regulations) form the basis for understanding the role of the community association. The objectives of the community association will be set out in its constitutive documents, which, along with the applicable North Carolina statutes, outline the responsibilities of the association, define the rights and obligations of owners, and generally define the framework of the community. Therefore, it is important to know what the governing documents say in order to fully understand the authority, obligations and limits of the association.

“Community associations are empowered, guided and constrained by the real estate conventions that create their communities.”

James todd, Real Estate Lawyer

It is essential that community associations understand the authority and limitations contained in their alliances. We frequently come across community associations that operate in a certain way “for as long as we can remember” without understanding why. We can help analyze and change alliances – whether it’s a review of decades-old alliances that do not meet current community needs, or proposed amendments to align alliances with practice. for a long time. A community association’s commitments are the framework within which it operates – we can help you ensure that this framework matches the needs of your community association. “

“One of the most important things to remember when dealing with overdue accounts is to take action early and be consistent in fulfilling a homeowner’s payment obligations.”

Thomas wolff, lawyer in creditors law

It can be much easier for homeowners to settle their arrears when they are still manageable and relatively low. Reaching out early and being ready to work out a reasonable payment plan can help avoid bigger issues before they develop. However, there will always be accounts that can prove to be troublesome and ultimately require legal assistance. In these cases, it is always important to contact the association’s legal counsel to take swift action to preserve their right to reimbursement and to place a lien on the property of the delinquent owner. In most cases, the lien will cover not only overdue dues, interest and other fees, but also the association’s legal fees. Acting quickly helps put the association in a prime position for repayment and makes growing debt difficult for the homeowner to ignore – especially if they want to sell or refinance their property. By acting early and dealing with delinquent accounts in a consistent manner, an association can help increase its chances of recovery.

Not all conflicts within a community association need a lawyer, but having qualified legal representation can go a long way in ensuring the health and keeping the peace within your HOA. Our Triangle team, backed by our full service, statewide Practice of community associations, is ready to meet the needs of your community association.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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