fine appeals in Minnesota

Understanding Your Rights: Fine Appeals and HOAs in Minnesota

Posted by Omega Property Management | Jun 14, 2024


If you purchased a property in a development governed by a homeowner’s association (HOA), no doubt you assumed the HOA would be to your benefit. Like most homeowners, you probably assumed the HOA would help maintain order, ensure your development stays tidy and presentable at all times, and discourage crime, thus maintaining—or increasing—the value of your property. 

What you probably didn’t anticipate, however, is that the HOA would seek to levy fines against you if you are deemed uncooperative or going against the grain in some other way. 

Thankfully, Minnesota has a process for appealing fines imposed on homeowners by an HOA. In this post, we’ll cover recent legislation (2023) that updates this appeal process. We’ll help you understand the legal basis for fines and the provision for you to appeal them. Then, we’ll dive into the appeal process and on what grounds you may appeal HOA fines. Finally, we’ll share some tips to help you properly appeal HOA fines in Minnesota!

Understanding Fines in HOAs 

In Minnesota—and, frankly, in most states—a homeowner’s association has the authority to impose fines on individual property owners for things like leaving your trash can out, parking a vehicle against the rules, noise complaints, or failing to maintain landscape properly. Additionally, they can typically assess fines for architectural issues such as painting your garage in a color that was not “board-approved,” putting up the “wrong” type of fence, or redoing your driveway with the “wrong” materials. In some instances, HOAs may also charge homeowners a fine for renting out their homes or owning a specific breed of pets. 

While most HOAs have some sort of system for imposing fines, not all HOAs operate the same—even within the same county, city, or state. Furthermore, some HOAs are more laid back and only have limited fines but others are much more aggressive about enforcing the rules and fines – and are completely dependent on the Board.

HOA Fine Structures

Sometimes, it may be appropriate for an HOA to levy a higher fine than at other times. This is because some infractions are more serious or affect more community members than other infractions. In other cases, the same individual may repeatedly break the HOA rules, regardless of the “intensity” of the infraction. For such scenarios, sometimes an escalating fine structure (e.g., one where the penalty increases with each succeeding infraction) may be more effective. 

Whatever the fine structure your HOA uses, you should be able to find its protocol outlined in the community rules & regulations. 

Legal Basis for Fine Appeals

Minnesota Statutes Chapter 515B is referred to as the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (or, as it’s more commonly referenced, MCIOA). MCIOA governs how many HOAs (i.e., those subject to its provisions) operate in Minnesota, including how they levy fines on homeowners. 

MCIOA has always stated that HOAs must first provide a notice of the violation and the opportunity to appeal said violation before assessing a fine. Now (since 2023), however, MCIOA requires an HOA to include specific information in the violation notice. 

What are those requirements? According to the Minnesota Statutes, Section 515B.3-102, “(2) for fines levied under section 515B.3-102(a)(11), specifies: (i) the violation for which a fine is being levied and the date of the levy; and (ii) the specific section of the declaration, bylaws, rules, or regulations allegedly violated;” 

In other words, the fine notice must specify the exact violation for which a fine is being imposed, along with the date the fine will be imposed and the precise location of the community bylaws, rules, amendments, or regulations the individual(s) have violated. 

Remember, communication is critical. Even if you don’t feel the HOA is justified in sending you the notice, please be sure to follow up on the notice. You will also get a better understanding of why they gave you the notice, and what they will expect you to do about taking care of the violation.

Fine Appeals Process

If you’ve received a fine notice from your Minnesota Homeowners’ Association, you may be panicking and wondering what—if any—recourse you may have. 

Tips for Successful HOA Fine Appeals in Minnesota

  1. Know your rights as a homeowner. First, you’ll want to know whether you’ve violated the HOA’s rules. Then, you’ll want to know whether you have grounds to appeal said violation. Why? Because even if you are in violation and no grounds for appeal are apparent, any fines levied must be “reasonable” given the violation. 
  2. Understand what is available to you. The Minnesota Statutes, in Section 515B.3-118, require HOAs to maintain certain records and make them available should a unit owner request to see those records. Ensure you have access to any applicable records regarding your alleged violation. (Bear in mind, the MN Statutes don’t require an Association to make accessible records that were developed behind closed-door Board meetings. That said, anything applying to your violation notice should be spelled out in publicly-available documents.)
  3. Contact your HOA. In writing, develop a response to your HOA, including your disagreement with any fines your notice says will be levied. Make sure this is done within any stated deadlines.
  4. Seek legal counsel. As with many situations, those involving specific statutes are best handled by an attorney. If you’ve exhausted the above steps and still do not feel confident in your right to appeal, seek the advice of an experienced attorney

Final Thoughts

As a property owner, you likely don’t want to deal with being fined by your HOA but if you find yourself holding a notice of violation, you have options. 

Fine appeals in Minnesota are covered by the Minnesota Statutes, and property owners don’t have to face the matter alone. Conversely, if you’re an HOA Board Member, you’ll want to take care to issue violation notices lawfully. 

Whether you’re a property owner or an HOA Board Member (or both!), we are here to help navigate the issue of HOA fine appeals. Contact us today for assistance!