In a perfect world, everyone would abide by the agreed upon rules of conduct and courtesy toward one another. Unfortunately, there are always going to be individuals in a community who are ignorant of those rules or who simply believe that they're personally exempt from having to follow them. This is especially damaging to the overall morale in a gated enclave or residential complex where homeowners have paid a premium with the expectation that everyone will observe certain protocols. If it's impractical--or potentially dangerous--to attempt to resolve an issue through conversation, it may be necessary to seek assistance and resolution through the homeowners' association.
Review the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R's) of the homeowners association policy that you signed when you first purchased or leased your property. These are the house rules or community bylaws that the association is obligated to enforce unless they run counter to local, state or federal laws and regulations. Identify the specific infraction that has been committed so that it can be referenced in your correspondence.
Address your letter to the individual or entity that is in the best position to remedy the problem. In most cases this will be the president of the homeowners' association or the collective membership of the board of directors. Provide a short subject line between the salutation and the body of your letter so it can be understood at a glance what your correspondence is about.
Identify the problem in your opening paragraph and how it specifically violates the CC&R's. Example: "It has come to my attention that my neighbor at such-and-such address has been allowing multiple cars to be parked at the same time on the street in front of his house. Several of these cars are not only in very bad condition but are often left for days at a time. This violates Item No. 27b of the CC&R's, which states that 'tenant vehicles must be parked in driveways and garages and all visitors must park outside the complex'."
Provide supporting testimony of your complaint in the form of incident dates and photographs. If you attempted to resolve the problem yourself by speaking to the tenant by telephone or in person, this needs to be put in writing as well.
Recommend how you'd like the issue to be resolved. In most cases, the call to action will be for the homeowners' association to issue a firm reminder letter to the offender and monitor future behavior to ensure compliance. It's essential that your request be reasonable, objective and fitting the circumstances. To say, for instance, that you think your neighbor should be evicted because her children are little monsters is not as reasonable as saying the neighbor should be issued a reminder that children are not allowed to leave their toys on other people's lawns or run unsupervised in the street.
- ['Word processing software', 'Good quality stationery']
If the language contained in the CC&R's contains ambiguities, you may have to point out that the rule needs to be rewritten. For example, a rule may specify that tenants should observe quiet hours between 10 and 8. If, however, the language fails to include p.m. and a.m., a person who is charged with playing loud music at 1 in the morning could say that he thought the rule meant to be quiet during the day.
Never send an anonymous complaint. If you feel strongly enough about an issue, you must be willing to have the gumption to attach your name to it. You can certainly request that your identity be kept confidential but it's important to provide your full contact information so that the association can reach you if additional questions need to be answered.
- "Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed! How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results"; Ellen Haygood Phillips; 1998
- "How To Complain For Fun And Profit: The Best Guide Ever To Writing Complaint Letters"; Bruce Silverman; 2008
- "101+ Complaint Letters That Get Results, 2E: Resolve Common Disputes Quickly and Easily"; Janet Rubel; 2006
- Absolutely White Row of Mailboxes in Modern Neighborhood image by Andy Dean from Fotolia.com