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Helping Immigrant Parents deal with Harassment from HOA Board Members

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Posted by2 months ago

Helping Immigrant Parents deal with Harassment from HOA Board Members

Hello all, not sure if this is the place to ask for advice, but since my family and I have nowhere else to ask for advice, I figured I'd ask here.

My parents have just bought a condo (outside of Chicago), and ever since they have moved in, the neighbors (who are on the board) have been harassing them with notes saying that they are "breaking" rules and to "learn to respect the community". The first time they received a note from the board, it stated that they had damaged the carpeting in a common area. From what we could see, there was no damage present at all, and they also did not include any proof that either they or anybody else had damaged the carpeting. Being that they are immigrants, they were too scared to fight the false accusation with the board, and thus didn't take any further action to dispute the false claim.

In addition, they received a complaint that they broke one of the parking rules, and when my parents asked for proof, the images they received showed that they did not do what was mentioned in the complaint. When this was brought up with a board member, they swiftly told them that the original complaint meant to reference a different rule, but for whatever reason wasn't written down correctly. My parents mentioned that if they continue to feel harassed that they will have to reach out to law enforcement. After this, the board refused to admit that they (the board) falsely accused my parents and hung up the phone on them while telling them to "go knock themselves out".

What are my parents allowed to do (or even say) to these people? I am afraid that these board members will continue to harass them without proof, and they are unsure of what they should do. They are keeping copies of all of these bogus complaints, but they are scared that the fines will start rolling in if they stand by and let themselves get accused of blatantly incorrect violations. They have resorted to taking pictures of everything related to their new unit, but it is causing them so much anxiety having to worry that their neighbors will continue to make false accusations against them without any evidence. Any advice is appreciated!

6 comments
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level 1

I am a community manager and have to issue a lot of these warnings.

Most of the time, this is just a policy driven procedure that the manager or board follow without any scrutiny. If any homeowner reports that someone else broke a rule, you follow the policy set in the rules or CC&Rs and send a warning letter to the accused. The warning makes sure that the accused:

  1. is aware of the rule

  2. can take precautions to ensure that they do not break the rule

  3. is aware that someone is reporting them and can take precautions such as documenting or retaining photo evidence regarding their interactions with the rule in question (ex: take a picture of your parking job to show that you were within the lines or parked in the correct spot)

If the same violation is reported a second time, members are typically invited to a hearing. This is usually the first time that the Board tries to figure out if what is being reported is backed up by any evidence. Before the second repetition of the violation report, the Board is typically not going to work to collect evidence or verify the authenticity of the complaint.

If/when your parents receive warning letters in the future, they should respond IN WRITING. They should state that they did not break the rule in question, and ask for a copy of the complaint. The Board may decide to not give out a copy of the complaint until the issue is escalated to a hearing. However if they do receive a copy of the complaint, then they can respond with their dispute IN WRITING (ex: the carpet is not damaged as reported, the complainant has us mixed up with someone else, that's not our car, etc). The purpose of this dispute is just to weaken the argument against them IF it gets escalated to a hearing.

Members should be aware that a warning letter means virtually nothing. It does indicate that at least one other neighbor is complaining about them, and it may indicate that that person is using a loophole in the system to intimidate or harass them by proxy. But it is usually not an indication that the Board or HOA as a whole is out to get them.

I hope that helps.

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level 2
Op · 2 mo. ago

Understood. In one of the supposed complaints, the photo evidence they submitted to us essentially proved the original complaint was invalid. They are now allowed to have 2 cars parked in the guest lot, and in the photo, you can clearly see that only 1 of their cars is. In this instance, what would you suggest? They don't want to make a stink of things, but they also are shocked that somebody can insist on serving them warnings for something they aren't breaking the rule for. The photographs show their single car being parked over the course of 2 days, and at no time was their 2nd car present.

Appreciate the help!

2
level 1
Comment removed by moderator · 2 mo. ago
level 2
Op · 2 mo. ago

Gotcha, does this sort of thing typically cost a good deal of money? I will look into lawyers, but their fear is having to pay a large sum just for them to continue being harassed.

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