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Unfortunately, yes, it is possible for an HOA member/owner to be forced to improve their property at their own expense.
The way this works is the design review guidelines for the association
(these governing documents can have different names or may be part of the CC&Rs or bylaws, they are sometimes called "architectural
guidelines"), will give specific rules for the way that each property must be maintained, or must appear - some are much more detailed than others, such as detailing what type of lawn must be grown, how high it can grow, what colors you can paint your home, or similar rules, while others are much more lenient.
If the property is not kept up to the standards of these guidelines, the HOA has an obligation to enforce these rules. This can include sending a notice to the homeowner
, fining the homeowner for failure to follow the rules, and even placing a lien on the property for failure to pay the fine.
If the HOA fails to enforce the rules, the neighboring homeowners have a right to enforce the rules on their neighbors
. This is done under the reciprocal contractual rights and obligations of the governing documents (including the design review rules). The same standards for enforcement apply for either the HOA enforcement or the neighboring owner's enforcement.
The standards for either one rely on the terms for design review being clear and unambiguous, this means the problems with the property must be in clear violation with the HOA's rules (so if the design review documents require clean exterior paint, and the paint on the property is cracked and peeling, the HOA has a reasonable claim that the property is in violation and the homeowner must remediate, however, if there is no paint color requirement in your HOA documents, they cannot make one up to enforce individually, so they can't force you to paint a pink house brown - this may be a bad example, as a lot of design review guidelines DO have color requirements).