If you are a member of an HOA board in Houston, one of your duties is to keep peace within your community. This sometimes means helping to resolve disputes between neighbors or among HOA board members.
When the dispute involves neighbors, getting it resolved quickly and amicably should be a priority. Disputes between neighbors can quickly escalate and police can become involved, leading to much bigger problems for your community.
Have your own internal process
Your HOA governing documents should not only contain information about the community rules and restrictions, but about how disputes will be resolved.
The HOA may have its own internal process for dispute resolution. This process and the steps to be followed should be included in your governing documents.
The internal process can generally be whatever you and the other board members believe is the best way to handle disputes. Your process may start with a homeowner submitting a written complaint, giving the other side a chance to respond and then scheduling a private meeting between the parties with the HOA board to discuss a resolution to the dispute.
Alternative forms of dispute resolution
When the dispute is not resolved through your internal process, using alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration is a good idea. Your governing documents should contain language requiring one of these methods as the next step.
The alternative dispute resolution requirement can apply to disputes between the HOA and homeowners, disputes between neighbors or disputes between HOA board members.
A main difference between the alternative dispute resolution process and your internal process is that a neutral third-party will conduct the mediation or arbitration, rather than the HOA board. The purpose is to maintain fairness.
If a resolution is reached at mediation or arbitration, it is put into writing and becomes binding.
When a resolution is not reached
Sometimes disputes simply cannot be resolved and then the situation becomes more complicated. HOA litigation might require advice and guidance from an attorney experienced with HOA disputes.