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Subject: Code Enforcement Technology
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07/15/2021 9:55 AM  
Hello all! I've been working on improving the Code Enforcement processes for our community and I'd love to get feedback from folks in self-managed HOAs and as well as property managers to understand whether this approach may be of value beyond our HOA.

Background: Code enforcement has been a challenge for this community. The Board consists of volunteers and the inspection process, documentation, and follow-ups became time-consuming - a problem that I know isn't unique to us.

Solution: I was brought on to manage code enforcement and, ideally, only involve the Board for design review questions and hearings. To make this process easier for myself, I implemented a few software solutions to automate the inspection and reporting processes.

Process: So far, I've rolled out these same systems to two other HOAs in the area and it's been going very well. Inspections take about 1 hour per week per community, and generating and sending violation notices only takes a few extra clicks. In total, it's reduced the time required for these tasks from about 4 hours per week down to 1.

I think that there might be a market opportunity for launching code enforcement services to other communities, but I'm trying to determine where I can add the most value. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the following questions I've been considering:

What objections would you have to hiring out code enforcement duties alone? I'm not a property manager, nor do I want to be. But I've found how to make the code enforcement process incredibly efficient and I can either a.) set up the systems to run and delegate the inspections to the Board, or b.) handle the inspections and reporting myself.

For any HOAs willing to consider using software to assist with code enforcement, how important is it that it works/integrates with existing systems that the HOA uses (i.e. QuickBooks, DropBox, etc.) With the community that these systems was designed for, the answer to this question is what led me to custom-build the solution instead of using something life HOA Life, as it doesn't integrate with other software without their top-tier subscription.

Thanks for your time!


07/15/2021 12:47 PM  
Honestly, I don't know any boards whose board members want to run around taking pictures of neighbors who are violating the rules and then submitting them to a website.


07/15/2021 1:11 PM  
Concerns: resident privacy and lack of judgement/nuance from software that isn't controlled by an expert system at minimum. In theory an expert system could capture much of the decision making board members or PMs can do, but the cost is unaffordable by most HOAs.

(By the by, my association's attorney told us that if we were out looking for violations every day, we were out of line. How that guidance fits with the board's obligation to enforce CC&Rs I will leave as an exercise for the reader...)



07/15/2021 1:16 PM  
Thanks for the feedback! Do you feel that snapping a picture and quickly filling out a form on a smartphone would be easier than the alternative? Assuming, of course that the alternative is a clipboard, typing up a word document with the violation, printing, and mailing?

My goal wouldn't be to increase the frequency of inspections required by the Board (or to whomever they delegate that responsibility) but instead make their existing processes easier.


07/15/2021 1:24 PM  
Great insights -- thank you!

In this scenario, homeowner information like names and addresses as well details of the violations are stored on Google Sheets and protected by their high-level of encryption. Fortunately, the only information that gets input is what the individual(s) completing the inspection deem appropriate. That information is then available only to the Board and updated in real time.

I noticed the same thing - most of these expert systems are out of reach for most associations due to cost. Another benefit of using Google as one component of the system is that it's completely free.

Thanks for the feedback!


07/15/2021 1:30 PM  
While I'm at it...

I don't like outsourcing any sort of surveillance. There's way too much of it these days. And you'd need to have robust security on your system to prevent the data from being hacked (as well as plenty of liability insurance to protect you when you do get hacked).

What happens if you just happen to snap a photo that catches evidence of criminal activity? Or you photograph somebody's small child without the parents' consent? Noise violations would be missed altogether unless you record audio, which would run afoul of laws in many states.

I'm sure I'll think of something else at 3 AM tomorrow...


07/15/2021 2:33 PM  
Define "code"

Code enforcement typically refers to building codes, etc., which is the responsibility of the municipality or county.

If you are referring to covenant violations, these are not codes but covenants.

My Association inspects once per year but will respond if someone reports a violation. Other then that, we don't go looking for violations. Therefore, other then terminology, I don't see how I can assist.

I would recommend you review the posting rules of the site - click on big smiley face that says Posting Rules - especially rule 3.


07/15/2021 2:52 PM  
Plus I do not get the correlation of recording a violation and enforcement. I can take pictures of that outhouse in your front yard all day long and twice on Sunday. However, what punitive or legal actions can a HOA take to remove it? Your kind of missing the "core" of the apple.

Does the HOA have a fining schedule in place? If so, what for and how much? Can your HOA remove the violation and send the owner the bill? If they do not pay that bill can the HOA place a lien for the money? Are you wanting to file lawsuits to pursue? (Bad idea). Are you allowed to fine? Can you apply dues toward those fines?

That is one of the things people ALWAYS over look. What actual actions can a HOA or even individual take to correct the violations pictured or tongues wagged about?

As for that Outhouse? Our HOA would send a warning with direct document quotes of the violation. Give a timeline to remove. If failed to remove, we could remove it, send the owner the bill. If they did not pay that bill, we then placed a lien for the amount of removal and lien filing. All of this would also be reported at our OPEN meetings referring to that owner ONLY by Lot # not by name.

Former HOA President


07/15/2021 3:26 PM  
There are already many products in this space. The big, national management companies have proprietary software, so your customer base is going to be either self managed associations or small, local management companies. And again, there are already multiple products out there that have violation tracking (including a mobile app that lets you input violations and photos from your phone) as part of their total software package.

You might want to do some googling before you start soliciting feedback. This is well trod ground.


07/15/2021 5:37 PM  
Just because technology exist doesn't mean you should use it. If you can't see it from the street, to me the violation does not exist.
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