Q:  Our townhouse development has recorded covenants which require upkeep of the exterior to a high standard by each owner.  Not all owners follow the requirements. Some hire third rate contractors who do a poor job or take months to finish what they start.  We need to find a way to get better quality work done by our homeowners and get it done quickly after starting. Our board is thinking about starting a list of acceptable contractors who we have seen perform well and requiring the owners to use them.  Any suggestions?

A:  We applaud your desire to have an attractive and well maintained community – that’s a big part of your job as a board of directors. The problem you face is not uncommon.  We have a couple of suggestions for successful results in dealing with these homeowners you describe in your question.  We assume that you have written an official letter to each homeowner who is in violation of the covenants by not performing proper maintenance and they have failed to respond.

First, meet with the homeowner and find out the reason they have not started the work, or, if it is started but dragging on, why there is a delay in completion.

You may find that the owner is not sure of a contractor to call.  You may wish to provide a few names of contractors that you have observed to be competent and reliable. We would caution that you not get in the business of requiring the use of any particular contractors so that you cannot be in a position of being blamed if the owner is not pleased with the recommended contractor.  You may wish to pass a rule requiring the use of contractors who have obtained a contractors license from the State, as this will assure a certain degree of competence and experience, including knowledge of the requirements of the Building Code. This license is different from a business license issued by the City or County.  You might also urge your owners to have written agreements with their contractors which specifically provides for a completion date and a payment schedule.  This will help avoid work delays due to misunderstandings.

If the owner simply delays without any good reason, you may have the ability under your declaration of covenants to hold a violation hearing and levy a fine on the homeowner of $10 per day that the work is not done, up to 90 days.  This is often very therapeutic for slow moving homeowners.  If that method is not effective, the law, and probably your declaration, provide that you can obtain an injunction order from the court.   The court order will require the owner to perform the necessary maintenance in a timely manner and you are entitled to recover your reasonable attorney’s fees incurred to accomplish the enforcement of the covenant.  You will find that if you consistently use your enforcement powers, the word will get out that you are doing so and you should have fewer instances of poor maintenance requiring your involvement as a board.