HOA Rules and Regulations
Most HOA rules are common sense put into rule form. They help keep shared community spaces clean and inviting for all.
HOA rules might include pet regulations, noise levels and how many people can live in a home to limit overcrowding. They might also restrict clutter and weeds.
While HOAs can fine homeowners for legitimate violations of their governing documents, they cannot impose a fine just because.
Most HOAs will have documents called a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that will explain proper maintenance and use of items such as landscaping, pools, roads, sidewalks and common areas. These are considered common areas because they don’t belong to individual homes. But the CC&Rs will likely also define separate interests, or private areas of homes, such as balconies. If a homeowner wants to build something that falls into the separate interest category, such as a shed or gazebo, they need to get permission and comply with architecture requirements in the governing docs.
Other governing documents may dictate parking regulations, pet ownership limits and noise rules. Verify that any home you’re considering in an HOA has up-to-date CC&Rs before you put an offer on it. Late fees can accumulate, and if the homeowner is not current, an HOA could place a lien on the property. This can prevent a sale, especially if the home has a mortgage.
Noise levels are a common issue in HOAs. While most homeowners have a right to enjoy their property, excessively loud music and parties can create a nuisance for neighbors. The first thing an HOA board needs to do is to check the governing documents for specific rules regarding noise nuisances. If there are no such rules, the board should create and approve a policy that outlines what the association considers to be a noise nuisance. This will give the association enforceable rules without contradicting the governing documents.
The board should also offer mediation in cases where a dispute between two homeowners arises over a noise nuisance. This will help keep the situation from escalating and affecting other members of the community. Most homeowners can be persuaded to change their behavior by a written or verbal request from the board. If a dispute cannot be resolved in this manner, the association should consider bringing in outside counsel to determine whether legal action is appropriate.
HOAs may impose restrictions on where and how residents park their vehicles. For example, some associations require that homeowners keep their garages clear enough to hold two cars and limit the number of parked cars outside the garage. Others have restrictions on commercially-branded vehicles or even prohibit them altogether.
It is difficult for HOAs to enforce these rules if the definitions aren’t clear. Branded vehicles often have decals that make them look like personal passenger cars, and there is little legal ground for a HOA to ticket a car with a business logo.
If the governing documents allow it, an HOA can suspend owner privileges after a certain amount of time has passed since a parking violation occurred. However, this is a drastic measure that usually occurs only after repeated or long-term violations. It also varies by state.
Homeowners who live in HOA communities are often tempted to rent out their homes or properties. However, if you plan to rent your property to tenants, it’s important that you understand your HOA’s rules and regulations before making the decision to do so. You can request a copy of your community’s governing documents or Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R) from your real estate agent and read them thoroughly. Typically, if you rent your property, your tenant will sign a lease agreement that includes all applicable CC&Rs and policies.
Most HOAs impose restrictions on homeowners who want to turn their homes into rentals, such as rental caps or minimum occupancy requirements, pet restrictions, noise criteria, and yard maintenance standards. While these restrictions undeniably limit your free use of your property, courts have upheld them as rationally calculated to promote the common good of the community. In addition, many HOAs also impose rental restrictions in order to meet mortgage lending requirements that have minimum owner-occupancy ratios.