Living in a planned condo development or estate comes with a lot of perks. You don’t have to worry about most maintenance tasks; you get access to exclusive amenities and the HOA takes care of your asset. But, all of this comes at a price. As a resident or homeowner, there are certain rules and regulations that you must follow and adhere to.
These are commonly referred to as covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC & R’s), and they’re enforced by the homeowner’s association (HOA). The objective of these rules is to maintain and enhance the value of the community and the assets within it.
Most HOA’s have similar rules and bylaws with a few differences here and there. In the following article, we’ll cover some of the most common HOA rules and bylaws that you need to know of before you move into planned community development.
What is the HOA?
Before we delve into HOA rules and bylaws, it’s important to understand the role of the homeowner’s association. The HOA is typically set up by the property developer to ensure the success of the planned development community.
Some of the HOA’s responsibilities include managing, marketing and selling the units. Most importantly, HOAs are tasked with the responsibility to establish and uphold rules and regulations that enhance the value of the property.
Once a majority of the units in a particular development have been sold, the developer will hand over control of the HOA to the homeowners. From here, the HOA board may implement the existing rules and bylaws or choose to set up their own CC & Rs.
Common HOA Rules and Bylaws
Here are some of the most common HOA rules and bylaws to consider if you want to move into an HOA managed property:
- Pet regulations: Most HOAs have strict pet policies that don’t allow certain pets into the property. This makes sense considering that most homeowners enjoy common amenities with their pets in tow. Some HOA pet regulations are more stringent than others, and they’re usually a source of great contention among homeowners.
- Fee obligations: The HOA requires Homeowners to pay a certain amount every month to cover certain costs. This amount is known as HOA dues and it covers maintenance costs of common areas, insurance costs and it contributes to a rainy-day fund known as a ‘reserve fund’. In a nutshell, these dues allow the community to maintain a certain living standard while enhancing the perceived value of each individual asset.
- Maintenance standards: Living in a HOA managed property also means adhering to certain maintenance rules. For instance, you must mow your lawn regularly, so your yard doesn’t ruin the aesthetic appeal of the general community. Although rare, some HOAs prohibit homeowners from planting vegetable gardens or certain trees on the front yard, as that may ruin neighborhood uniformity. This is obviously bad news for green-fingered homeowners who enjoy gardening. In most cases, you’re allowed to do as you like with your backyard, granted it’s kept neat and clean.
- Rental guidelines: HOA rules also make provision for homeowners that rent out their property. Rental guidelines basically stipulate that renters must adhere to established community rules like everyone else. Homeowners are also required to inform the HOA when a new renter comes in. If a renter does not follow the rules, it’s usually the homeowner that gets penalized.
- Architectural: The HOA may impose architectural guidelines on homeowners. For instance, the CC&R’s may limit how high your fence should be or the materials you can use to erect it.
- Occupancy limits: A lot of HOAs have rules that stipulate how many people may live in the same residence. The larger the residence, the more people may live in it.
- Noise: Most HOAs have noise regulations that determine the amount of noise a homeowner can make during the day and at night. Mostly, the HOA requires homeowners to observe quiet hours to prevent noise pollution at certain times of the day or night.
- Parking: Parking regulations determine the types of vehicles that are allowed, where you should park, and the speed limit to observe while driving within the complex.
It’s important to note here that you may not find all these rules in your HOA documents, but a lot of them are standard. Your HOA may have additional rules based on your region and the unique needs of your community. But, there’s a good chance you’ll find a few of these rules in your HOAs CC&R’s.
What Happens if you don’t agree with HOA rules?
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to feel overly restricted by HOA rules. Sometimes, it can even feel like your HOA is trying to control your life. But, it’s important to remember that HOA rules are established to enrich your neighborhood and boost your home’s value over time, which is one of the most important assets you’ll ever own.
This doesn’t make it any easier to follow HOA rules though, and sometimes it can feel like some CC&R’s are elitist or even silly. For instance, HOA rules might stipulate that you can’t park your truck overnight because its appearance threatens the visual appeal of the neighborhood. The HOA may also force you to “put down” one of your pets because you’re gone beyond the “allowed pet limit”.
The good news is homeowners are allowed to challenge HOA rules, but it’s important to continue paying your dues, regardless. Having a perfect record will count in your favor when you decide to contest a particular rule. Plus, homeowners that fail to pay HOA dues and respond to board letters can be taken to court or suffer massive fines.
How to challenge an HOA rule
The first step to challenging a HOA rule you don’t agree with should be to contact your HOA board via telephone or email. Most issues are easily resolved this way. But, if your request is to do something that’s against the rules, then you must write a formal letter making a variance request.
Let’s say you want to mount a massive flag on the front of your property, and they do not allow this in your community. Asking for an exception to the rule requires that you state your reasons and in writing. Submit your request to the HOA board and the property management company if your property has one. At best, you’ll probably walk away with a compromise. The HOA might allow you to put up the flag, but only on recognized public holidays.
Keep in mind that the HOA board might take a while to get back to you. That’s because most HOA boards meet two to four times a year. Plus, the matter may require a community vote which takes even more time. If the HOA takes the latter route, your request might take up to six months, as the HOA will most likely consult with their attorney to determine the legal implications of altering the rule in question.
However, if the HOA takes longer than six months to reply to your request, then you should resubmit your variance request and ask for a hearing. Also, if the vote goes against your request, you’re well within your rights to pursue the matter further. Find out if any of your neighbors feel the same about the rule and ask them to sign a petition. This’ll give your case more weight when you appeal the ruling.
It goes without saying that if you’re going to challenge the HOA rules and bylaws, you should know your CC&Rs. Otherwise; the HOA can easily use a little-known loophole to thwart your efforts. Being an active member of your community can also improve your chances of getting your way when you challenge the rules. For instance, you could volunteer to be part of a committee within the HOA or offer your expertise to the board. If you’re a web designer, you could offer to update the HOA website or assist the board with bookkeeping if you’re an accountant.
What happens when the HOA breaks the rules?
HOAs can also break the rules. If you feel that your HOA has committed one or a combination of the following offenses, don’t be afraid to fight back. The offenses include:
- Fining homeowners for breaking rules that don’t even appear on the CC& Rs.
- Trying to impose new rules that are not in the CC &Rs yet.
- Showing discrimination against a homeowner based on race, gender, status or religious affiliation, etc.
- Telling homeowners to remove their satellite dishes. The FCC entitles homeowners to put up satellite dishes regardless of what the HOA rules are.
HOA rules and bylaws are essential to maintaining a certain standard of living and property value in a community. Therefore, it’s important for homeowners to follow them. But, you can’t follow something you don’t know or understand so it’s equally important to study your HOAs CC&R’s before you move in. That way, you know what you’re getting yourself into before you commit to buying a property. We hope this article has given you an idea of what to expect from most HOA rules so you can make an informed decision when buying into a planned development community.
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