As much as we might not like to admit it at times, homeowners associations have rules and regulations in place for a reason. Mostly, they are for community safety and structure. If you find yourself questioning whether your HOA has the authority to regulate a certain item or action, check its governing documents and bylaws, as well as your state and local laws. If you’re a board member, you need to realize the importance of clear, coherent rules and governing documents, in order to avoid misunderstandings and disputes.
To get this guide started, it’s important to understand what is in place that gives the HOA the power to act in the first place; this begins and ends with the CC&Rs. The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) dictate the rules or restrictions the owners of the land must follow in all homeowners associations (HOA), property owners associations, and community associations. The CC&Rs are said to “run with the land,” meaning that the restrictions for the property are in place no matter who owns the property.
The DCCR’s include specific guidelines for such items as yard maintenance, basketball hoops, noise, pets, parking, vehicle storage, and general nuisances.
The CC&Rs also list in detail the association’s covenant for assessments. This covenant gives the association the right to charge dues to each of its members, and lists the consequences for non-payment. Oftentimes, the HOA can enforce these rules through their HOA management company. The guidelines for establishing and executing the architectural control committee are also included in the CC&Rs. All of these items are vital to an association and ensure that the association is always maintained and well kept by your HOA management company or Board of Directors.
When a homeowner purchases a home in a community with a mandatory homeowners association, they must sign documents that state that they have been told that the property they are purchasing has rules and restrictions. It’s important to read through the CC&Rs and be aware of all of the rules of the neighborhood before purchasing a house in a mandatory HOA.
Now, while the CC&Rs provide the outline for how the community is run, it is The Architectural Review Changes committee that is responsible for ensuring that any changes to the exterior of the homes conform to the standards set by the governing documents, such as the CC&Rs and bylaws, making them one of the most important committees established in any HOA. They also ensure that no exterior modifications will be approved that will negatively impact the appearance of the community. In other words, if a community member wishes to, say, paint their house, and your CC&Rs have a provision giving the board and ARC control over such an action, it is the ARC who will approve or deny said structural improvement. Your HOA management company’s responsibilities include assisting your community with ARCs.
As board members and even HOA management companies change over the years, it’s vital to have the ability to review alterations, as well as have a modicum of control over these improvements so the community can continue to aspire to the image its residents desire. If alterations to a home occur without HOA approval, the board needs to take appropriate action to follow up, and a hearing should possibly be conducted. These kinds of regulatory procedures not only help to preserve order in the community, but allow the freedom for reasonable modifications to the homes.
The Powers of the Board and ARC
As you can see, the powers of these two governing bodies are far reaching and quite substantial; but, just how far do they go? Fortunately for board members—and unfortunately for homeowners, in some cases—these powers go as far as the CC&Rs allow; in other words, they are almost limitless when it comes to the appearance of the neighborhood.
Many of the rules that you’ll see outlined in the CC&Rs that the Board of Directors has the power to enforce have to do with lawn maintenance. The CC&Rs list general rules for the maintenance of community members’ lawns, including mowing, edging, weed removal, watering, removal of dead trees and plants, and replacing dead grass. Additionally, if you live in a gated community, your association owns the streets, and specific rules regarding parking must be in place for proper enforcement (this is why many HOAs are able to dictate where you can and cannot park).
Specific guidelines about what types of vehicles can be stored on the property are also often addressed in the CC&Rs. Boats, trailers, broken down vehicles, tractors or other recreational vehicles that are parked in the driveway are unsightly and can ruin property values over time.
Other rules may have to do with the care, noise level, and overall maintenance of pets. The CC&Rs normally list which types of domestic animals and how many (generally two dogs and two cats) can be kept on a lot. Also, most CC&Rs mention that animals must be confined to the owner’s lot or on a leash at all times. And these are just some of the rules you may encounter. When it comes to changing the exterior of their home, there can be even more.
In fact, one of the most common complaints we hear from HOA management homeowners concerns the difficulty of being able to paint their house in the color and fashion they want.
People who hate the very existence of any HOA will say that it’s insane that you have to get approval in order to paint the outside of the property that YOU own. And, while that’s a popular complaint against the idea of a homeowners association, it’s also one of the most common issues that homeowners associations have to deal with.
For example, when you come home from work one day and your neighbor has decided to change their home from a sandy color to a bright green, you might have a negative reaction. It could dramatically affect you and your community’s property values. Now, all of a sudden, this has become a major issue for you and your other neighbors. At this point, you will be glad that you live in a homeowners association that can take action and protect your investment from the person next door.
So, what if you want to change the color of your home, not to some radical color, but just a slight adjustment? Well, the best place to start is by calling your HOA management company. Get in contact with your community manager and ask them what steps you need to take in order to get your paint proposal approved.
The common areas of a community association also fall under the jurisdiction of the HOA. These areas are of the utmost importance for any HOA, as they are where your association members will spend time in and share together. That’s why it’s necessary that you keep your common areas maintained, and encourage members to do the same. You may come across members who have no courtesy for the community common areas. In such cases, it’s wise to have specific rules in place for members who use the common areas.
Bothersome members in your community association (such as those who are overly noisy or leave their personal belongings in common areas) are detrimental to the harmony of your HOA. Community members must be reminded that these common areas belong to the community as a whole, and that they need to be responsible for their actions.
Your association members may be confused as to what exactly is considered a common area. In order to ensure that everyone is on the same page, define for your members what a common area is. Common areas consist of stairwells, hallways, laundry rooms, lobbies, basement and roof areas, courtyards, pathways, lawns, and any areas with community amenities, such as fitness centers, pools, and sport courts.
Once you’ve made certain that there isn’t any ambiguity over which areas constitute common areas, ban your members from leaving trash and/or laundry in those areas. Members may leave their trash out in the hallways to take to designated community trash bin at a later time, but this action is not being courteous of other members within the community. It’s important for members to know that repeated instances of this behavior will not be tolerated.
Association members should never leave any of their personal belongings in common areas, but if they do, your HOA must reserve the right to remove those items yourself. Whether it’s a bike attached to a railing or a bushel of children’s toys scattered across a lawn, having these items in the common areas is not only an eyesore, but hazardous to other members of the community.
Common area rules need to ban members from causing a nuisance in your community common areas. Nuisances include loud noises, inappropriate clothing, anti-social behavior, running, riding skateboards or bikes in the street, and playing music without wearing headphones.
Make sure you let your members know that they are also responsible for the actions of their tenants and guests. If a tenant or guest of a member violates the common area rules, the member will be held accountable for those actions.
Managing the Playground
Playgrounds, like common areas, are yet another part of the community which the Board has power over, or should have if it does not. After all, a playground can be a hazard, especially if children are unsupervised or if the equipment isn’t properly used or maintained. If injuries occur, the association could end up getting sued.
Although your association is responsible for the basic upkeep of playground equipment, HOAs aren’t generally responsible for supervising children at the playground. Through the playground rules, make parents aware that they should be supervising their children at all times. Inform members that they must ensure that their children use the playground equipment as intended to reduce the risk of injury. On that note, be sure to ban children from rough play, shoving, and fighting on the playground, as well as throwing rocks, sand or other objects.
It’s also a good idea to set reasonable hours for playground use, such as 8:00am until dusk or other times that correspond with daylight. Most community managers will suggest closing the playground area during stormy weather; playground equipment can be slippery when wet, causing accidents as a result.
If your community’s playground has an asphalt or blacktop surface, don’t let children roller-skate, in-line skate, skateboard or ride bicycles in the playground. These items could cause injury that the association may be liable for. Pets should also be banned from playground areas, as they can pose a danger to children and also use the sandbox as a bathroom.
Although your association is not required to supervise children at the common area playgrounds, your HOA is responsible for making sure that the equipment is safe and follows the consumer product safety guides. Some HOA management companies will send community managers to the playground at least once a month to review the equipment and call in a vendor to perform an inspection and make repairs as necessary.
Can Your HOA Access Your Property?
With all these rules, the board of directors may be starting to seem like a little too powerful, even for board members who are just out to keep their community in line. So, just how far is an association permitted to go in the name of regulation? Many people view their HOA as desirable organizations that prevent property values from dipping too low. However, others are uncomfortable with the idea of their HOA overstepping its bounds and invading their personal privacy, particularly by entering their property.
If you’re wondering whether your HOA has access to a homeowner’s property, the first action you should take is to check the homeowners association’s agreement or bylaws. Within those legal documents, the homeowner should be able to determine what rights are granted to the association explicitly. It’s not unheard of for an association to change rules without any warning or notification to members. In other words, what may have been passable before may become a citation-worthy offense, without the homeowner knowing until it’s too late.
Additionally, just because a term is not stated in black in white doesn’t mean the homeowners association doesn’t have the right. The property owner should carefully read the agreement before ever signing, to determine if the document gives the association any implied rights.
For example, the bylaws may state that the property owner’s presence within the neighborhood gives implicit consent for the homeowners association to come onto the property, whether the owner is home or not, for the purpose of inspection or complaint investigation. In the event the association initiates communication regarding an inspection and the homeowner denies access, the implicit consent clause lets the association onto the property whether the homeowner consents or not. That being said, they cannot force themselves through the front door against the owner’s will; they would only be able to inspect the exterior of the property. However, if the homeowners association has a copy of the key to the home, they can enter the home as they see fit.
Another example in which your HOA may enter the homeowner’s property is if a tenet of the association agreement has been violated. Perhaps the owner has broken a rule regarding outside decor or lawn ornamentation. If the owner fails to respond to citations by the association, he or she may be subject to fines or an unwanted visit from the homeowners association. While the association cannot harass the property owner, they can enforce the rules of the association code.
Running a community association takes a lot of work, so sometimes HOA management companies may overlook changes in state, federal, or local laws. When changes in laws regarding homeowners associations occur, it’s important to reflect these changes in your rules.
If your current rules contradict current laws, those rules become unenforceable, and even worse, you could be breaking the law. HOA management companies must look through the governing documents to make sure certain rules aren’t included to avoid problems. There are three rules often seen in community association governing documents that violate laws; it’s your responsibility to read through your documents to make sure these rules aren’t included.
The first rule for HOA management companies to look for in the governing documents is any rule barring children under a certain age from using the community pool. Obviously, children are more likely to be involved in pool accidents that could be a liability for the association, which makes it tempting to ban them from the pool area completely. Do not ban children from your community pool. Banning children from the community pool violates the federal Fair Housing Law, and you could be responsible if a lawsuit were to occur.
The second rule to keep out of the governing documents is any rule that bans the use of satellite dishes. This is America, and we love our televisions. By federal law, you cannot ban a member from installing and using a satellite dish. However, you can enforce a rule stating the dish cannot be more than one meter in diameter.
The third rule, being a state law, is for the use of solar panels. An association cannot ban the installation and use of solar energy panels. Even if you find them unsightly, they are here to stay. It’s also against the law to make rules in order to make the process of installing solar panels too difficult or expensive for members.
Know the Rules, Improve your Community
When all community and board members understand the governing documents, rules, and restrictions of your HOA, it’s much easier for everyone to follow those regulations. Just make sure that your HOA’s rules do not overstep any boundaries outside of their control, and you should find fewer complaints over the rules.
For help managing your community, contact Spectrum Association Management today and see why our HOA management services are top rated in Arizona and Texas.
How do I learn about if it is legal for HOA to limit visitor parking spots to 48 hours ? Living in Hawaii, it takes my friends more than 48 hours to fly here. Why can’t they visit me for a week ?
Good question. Each HOA has their own governing documents. In all likelihood such a limitation would be allowable. This is a great reminder to always read documents carefully before joining an association. Once you are in a community, you’ve agreed to live by the rules. However, contact your management company for a clearer description of exactly what is going on in your community. If you believe the rule isn’t enforceable, consider attending the next board meeting. You never know, they me be open for a change. Good luck.
How do you legally enforce a HOA by-law that has been broken.
Your association should have a policy for enforcement. First step would be to notify your board and/or management company if you have one. Thanks Donald
What if Board members discriminate against you because you blew the whistle on them for not resigning when their terms expired and extending their terms for a year on their own. Nothing in the Bylaws & CC&R’s allowed for this. They claim they can now ban me for life from HOA meetings. HELP!
Sounds like a tricky situation. I wish you didn’t have to get an attorney involved but it might be the only way for you to straighten this one out. In the meantime, maybe you can talk to a board member who isn’t part of this group if one in fact exists. I wish I could provide a clean answer for you, but it doesn’t seem like there is one without more information. best of luck to you!
What if my HOA has stopped enforcing rules? Bylaws state weed removal, as well as no sheds or privacy fences. But people are doing this and the board is doing nothing. I have sent them a request to enforce, but they decline. This my property value at stake
Tough situation. Have you considered getting on the board? The board does have an obligation to enforce your documents consistently. However, it is often tough to see what they are doing because they don’t have to share what enforcement actions they are taking against other homeowners. Just like they don’t share your account specific information with the rest of the community. I would definitely get involved if it is an important issue to you!
I Live in a Dead End Street. My CC&R says, NO PARKING SPACES, all vehicles should park only infront of their Garage. But but now HOA wants to change it. And have that No Parking Spaces removed. It’s unfair on my side, because i have half of the road to get in and get out of my home. While this car of my neighbor, blocking my access going to my home. Should i file a case on my HOA. If i sell my house it will be hard because the buyer will see that car when they want to look on my home.
Sounds like a tough situation Lao. This is why everyone should be involved in their community as you are. This way you know what is going on and can be a part of the conversation about the governance of your community. There are so many variables with your situation that we can’t comment particularly, but please read all governing documents carefully, determine if they are private streets and then maybe, you can have an attorney draft an opinion letter, but that expense is probably your last resort.
How can I petition paying the fees for when I sale my home? My HOA has’nt had a meeting in three years and we never see any upkeep of our subdivision. So I don’t think it’s fair to pay them when I sale my home.
Can an HOA start changing and amending our CC&R’s with the assoc attorney paying so far &10,000 and never bring up this matter to the assoc meetings. Shouldn’t this is sure be brought up at an assoc meeting with homeowners. Should this be a surprise when we have to vote on this issue
If CC&R’s are incorporated and signed and recorded by the state, can a department within the state enforce any of the violations?
Not typically. They can enforce their own code and rules, but only the association can enforce association rules. However, if it is an issue where there is an overlap, local officials may be able to help in their area of responsibility.
Do I have the right to view my neighbors ARC approval after it has already been approved.
Probably not. They can share it with you if they wish, but a board and the management company should not share records about individual properties with other neighbors. You probably wouldn’t want your account information shared with others and so all neighbors get the same protection.
What kind of jobs can a handyman employed by an HOA perform and at what point does he/she need a license?
I wish to replace my 28 year old aluminum windows which have black frames with vinyl windows that are the same color as the outside surface of the condo building. The Rules & Regulations & Architectural Standards under “WINDOW REPLACEMENT” state: Metal or vinyl frames are permitted but must match or blend with exterior surfaces. In May 2016 a newly formed Architectural Committee changed the guidelines requiring all frames to be bronze or black. Does this committee have authority over the Rules & Regulations? There are currently 31 condos in the community that have installed vinyl windows with the light color frame.
Good question, one in which I don’t have enough information for. I suggest you contact your ACC specialist at your management company for advice related to your specific question and your community.
U want to know if is legal to place decorative rocks on grass of community to avoid vehicles destroying the grass U have seen rocks in vulnerable sites in other communities We ha not side blocks and large vehicles are driving ever the grass We just spent a lot of money enhancing the green areas but we cant control the large vehicles driving over the grass only placing rocks
If I understand what you are asking, then what you can do on your personal yard is up to the standards of the community. You can always request the governing documents. Ideally, these are conveniently housed for you on your community website. If you are talking about common areas then it would be up to your board and/or the landscaping committee with oversight from the board. Best of luck
Are HOA’s typically held responsible for maintaining perimeter safety path and boardwalks? If not which municipalities in Michigan and the USA require this?
If you live in/own a condo and your patio slab was poured incorrectly (no rebar or reinforcement) and without permits or Architectural Review or permission, (by previous owner) and then same patio starts to crack and raise due to oak tree roots from tree in common area, can your HOA tell you ‘sorry, the problems with (unapproved) patio is your ‘inherited problem? HOA states ‘no information’ on prior owner’s architectural submission or who contractor was, etc. Is there supposed to be records/permits kept by HOA on everything that is done to an individual unit? Thank you.
Good question Amy, probably one you need a lawyer for. Typically you inherit the property as is and you are responsible for bringing your property into compliance. Such records should be kept but may or may not be required by law, depending on how the record is classified and your jurisdiction.
How can the HOA regulate the length of time construction equipment is brought on to a home site and when it is removed. We have a problem with builders starting a project and then stopping for days or weeks at a time leaving bulldozers, derricks, etc. onsite. Our homeowners have to look at these unfinished sites.
You are right, it is a challenge. Like most things the association follows what is in the documents or create a resolution or rule to enforce against unfinished job sites. Often times, the developer is the board and they want to balance the construction crew’s needs with the homeowners. A lot just depends on your situation. Thanks for the question.
When a board has the authority to establish rules®s, is there a time frame for when the rule goes into effect for the enforcement of the rule, or can it be “effective immediately”. Thanx all
They will typically outline a timeline. If not, then it would likely depend on your state. Some states require the association to file resolutions with the state to provide legal notice of the changes, but each state has their own requirement. Good question and the answer, like many questions of this type is, it depends.
Is HOA able to tell a homeowner they can’t have a company truck in the parking lot?
We have an owner who sold their house, but just before leaving painted the trim and front color bright turquoise without approval Clearly the color is not in accordance with the DCCRs which require that colors be in harmony wtih existing homes and colors. Now the new owner says he isn’t responsible for complying at all.since he bought the house with that color so he can’t be held responsible as he wasn’t the one that painted it. Its awful and ruins the look of the street.
My HOA doesn’t allow ‘in ground’ basketball hoops. Only portable ones that have to be put away at night and when not in use. We have a ton of kids in neighborhood and are constantly putting this up and away and damaging them. My question is, do I have any laws that can help me fight the HOA on putting an inground hoop up? Just curious on how far I should take this fight. Crazy question and thanks for the help.
If covenants pertaining to fences are changed, can the HOA force you to change your fence? Fence was installed by previous owners so it was in place when we purchased the house. It is wood on the front but chain link on the other three sides. They are currently in the process of changing the covenants to state that fences must be wood or vinyl.
I am on an Architectural Control committee of our HOA. Some of the properties in the association border a public lake. Some on the committee want to make rules stricter than the state (DNR) rules about the design of docks members might install in the lake. However, the lake is 100% public and has a public landing. The CCR language says that the Association can regulate “the Lots and improvements thereon”. There is nothing in the covenants about regulating the lake, only the Lots. The plats for the properties in the Association (common and private) do not include the lake. I have doubts about whether we can make and enforce rules on public property (the lake) when the Agreement with our members (the CCRs) does not include the lake. The state defines the boundary of the lake as the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM). My inclination is to say we can only regulate any portion of the dock that might overhang the Lot (ie inland of the OHWM) and we can regulate off-season storage of dock parts on the Lot, but we can’t regulate the physical design of the dock as installed in the public lake waterward of the OHWM as that would infringe the members’ riparian rights to build a dock per state standards, rights they did not agree to have limited when they signed onto the CCRs since the CCRs do not mention the lake as under HOA control. Thoughts?
Can an HOA change the CC&R without your agreeance on tye new rules and then hold you fines against the new rules if we signed a copy of the CC&R when we bought the house and were not in violation before the new rules were instated.
For clarity, we purchased a home a year ago in a community with an HOA unfortunantly for them, they had ZERO rules against poultry, so I proceeded to move my chickens onto the property in accordance with county laws for our residential zone. It seems as if some people have had their panties in a wad about this because we have had unknowns trespassing on our property and looking into the shed where the chickens are kept, people parking at our curb (on a culd-a-sac) and taking notes, etc.
Neother the shed nor the chickens were against any HOA or county laws prior to the new managment groul taking over. Now we recieved a newsletter in the mail from the new managment group, initiating new rules and regulations, all of which are VERY detailed, like weirdly overly detailed. Two of the new regulations put the placement of my shed, and my chickens against the rules now. The shed, and placement of thr shed was approved by default by the old managment company because they did not respond within 90 days.
I would also like to know if an HOA can change the CC&R and then force a third of the homeowners to replace or install fencing along the outside of their property. This has never been a rule for the last 30+ years since the rules were written.
I live in a very small waterfront community with a hoa. The homes are normally under 1200 Sq ft and single story. Our hoa needs help with wording of an ammendment that will restrict any new construction to that of similar size and siting. Hope you can help.
Our By-laws allow personal ornamentation on the berm in front of units. There are clear prohibitions of want is NOT permitted, such as spinners, flags or ornaments with moving parts. There is also a rule that states, the Board reserves the right to review and request the removal of any ornament it deems inappropriate. A new Board was elected and suddenly, ornaments that have been in place for many years, are being deemed as inappropriate. It is my contention that there is no such thing as a magic “deeming” wand that can be waved while reciting the words, “I deem this ornament inappropriate.” In order to be enforceable, I feel the Board must have objective criteria for deeming an ornament inappropriate. What say you?
Our HOA CC&R’s do not state that sheds are restricted. I would interpret the omission as therefore allowing them. The CC&R’s require a 67% membership vote to change.
The recent HOA Board created an amendment in the Bylaws stating that sheds are not permitted. The Bylaws are able to be changed by the board at any time.
Is this legal? Can the HOA create a shed restriction in the Bylaws and not the CC&R’s?
We have an HOA stating that we cannot have sheds. Our neighbor has a shed and you can see it from the street. Ours can be seen from the street as well. If one neighbor has a shed why can we not have a shed.