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HOA Rules: Guide to Homeowner’s Association Rules and Regulations

If you’re looking to buy a house that is part of an HOA, then you’ll want to be educated about HOA rules and regulations. Many homebuyers deliberately seek out homes within an HOA community.

Other homebuyers would never even consider purchasing a home in an HOA community because of the HOA rules. If you fall into the category of people who want to live in an HOA, keep reading! We have compiled key information about HOA rules for you.

What Exactly is an HOA?

Before diving into some of the typical HOA rules, let's take a step back and talk about what an HOA is. Simply put, HOA stands for homeowner’s association. A homeowner’s associate is a privately-held organization that oversees subdivisions, condominium complexes, co-ops, and townhouses.

An HOA is typically made up of various board members who are all in charge of enforcing the HOA rules and regulations. No homeowner’s association is the same. Some homeowner’s associations are stricter than others, and some provide more benefits than others.

An HOA property will have an HOA fee associated with it. This fee is typically paid monthly to the homeowner’s association.

Common HOA Rules and Regulations

There are various HOA rules and regulations that a homeowner living in an HOA will need to follow once they purchase a home within an HOA community. HOA rules and regulations could either be the biggest appeal or the single greatest deterrent when looking for a place to call home. Let’s take a look at some of the most common HOA rules.

Fee Obligation:

First and foremost, all homeowners will likely be required to pay a monthly HOA fee if they purchase a home within an HOA community. The homeowner’s association will put the money from fees towards a variety of goods and services.

Fees are commonly put towards the following responsibilities:

  • The maintenance of a community pool
  • The maintenance of a community park
  • Upkeep for basketball courts, tennis courts, or playgrounds
  • Maintenance of community centers or gyms
  • Garbage, recycle, or yard waste removal
  • Street lights for the subdivision
  • Roof replacements
  • Updated siding

Pet Regulations

It’s certainly not uncommon for a homeowner’s association to have strict pet regulations. Some HOA rules restrict homeowners from owning a pet, or if they do allow pets on the premises, the HOA may restrict certain breeds or types of animals from living on site.

For instance, the homeowner’s association may allow cats or dogs as pets, but they might restrict residents from raising chickens in their backyard. Other homeowner’s associations can restrict the size of pets, so while they may allow cats and dogs, they might not allow pets that surpass a specific weight limit.

Architecture or Appearance Rules

If you take a lot of pride in your home and you hate it when your neighbors let their property fall apart, you may love living in an HOA community. Just about every HOA community will have an HOA rule or two centered around the upkeep, architecture, and appearance of all homes.

The HOA community will likely require landscaping in a timely fashion. You won’t see overgrown grass or bushes in an HOA community. Additionally, the homeowner’s association will also likely have restrictions regarding the appearance of the home. You might be restricted in terms of what color you can paint your front door or house in general.

Also, for example, if the siding of your home is falling apart, the homeowner’s association can require you to replace the siding by a specific date. Homeowner’s associations often take it one step further as well. They may not allow boats to be parked in the driveway, on the street, or in the yard, nor will they allow inoperable cars take up space in driveways or on streets.

Insurance

Your HOA fees will typically act as insurance for the exterior of your home, but this doesn’t mean HOA fees can cover anything inside of your home. If a tree falls onto your roof, the HOA fee will cover the cost of roof repairs. But if your washer overflows and floods your home, you’ll have to check your homeowner’s insurance policy and see if the HOA will cover interior damage to your home.

Common Area Rules

Plenty of homeowner’s associations typically have a common area like a clubhouse or an outdoor area. There will likely be additional rules for the common areas.

For example, one of the rules might be that the common area closes at 10pm every night. Another rule might be that you have to reserve the common area a certain number of days in advance if you want to host a party or other event in that space.

How HOAs Enforce Rules

Once a homeowner’s association has determined that a specific property is in violation of a rule, the HOA will proceed by enforcing the rule in a few different ways. First and foremost, the HOA can issue a warning and provide the homeowner with an opportunity to fix, or correct, the issue.

For instance, if the homeowner's lawn is overgrown beyond the maximum length according to the HOA, then the homeowner’s association will give the homeowner an opportunity to cut the grass and bring the yard back to compliance. This warning is often time-bound, meaning the homeowner will have to fix their yard by a specific date.

If the homeowner fails to fix the issue by a specific date, the HOA reserves the right to fine the homeowner. This fine can grow in size if the issue persists.

If the fine does not motivate the homeowner to fix the underlying issue, privileges could be lost. For instance, if the HOA has a community gym, the homeowner’s association may restrict the homeowner from using the gym until the fine is paid and the issue is resolved.

Can the Police Enforce HOA Rules?

One of the common questions regarding HOA rules is, “Can the police get involved and enforce the rules?” To be honest, the answer to this question is not very straightforward.

The police enforce state and local laws. If the HOA rule is also aligned with statewide and local laws, then yes, the police can get involved and enforce the rule.

However, in most cases, going against HOA rules is typically not a criminal act on a state or local level. The HOA cannot rely on the police to enforce rules because most of the HOA rules are not laws.

When HOA Rules Are Unenforceable

There are times where HOA rules are unenforceable. Let’s look at some of the times where HOA rules cannot be enforced.

Violations of Rights or Law Breaches

If the HOA rule violates your rights or goes against the law, the homeowner’s association cannot enforce the rule. The homeowner’s association can make an effort to enforce the rule, but if it goes against the rights of a homeowner, then the homeowner can counter their efforts in court. A common example is when an HOA rule directly contradicts a homeowner’s freedom of speech.

No Power Act

A homeowner cannot be singled out by the HOA. Unless the homeowner is violating a rule, the homeowner’s association cannot issue fines against the homeowner without a legitimate reason.

This is referred to as a situation where the HOA has no power to act. It’s similar to police enforcing the law. They cannot arrest someone just for the sake of arresting someone.

Incorrectly Enacted Rules

HOA rules are subject to change with time. However, when an HOA rule changes, proper procedures must be followed. If protocols are not followed, then the rule cannot be enforced.

Selective or Inconsistent Enforcement

Following the point made regarding there being no power to act, if the HOA is enforcing a rule with you, they need to enforce the rule with every other homeowner who violates the same rule. You cannot be singled out within your community.

How to Handle Unenforceable HOA Rules

Generally speaking, a homeowner can handle an unenforceable HOA rule through a few different channels. Most commonly, the homeowner can seek legal counsel or talk to the HOA board.

Seeking legal counsel is always an option. If the homeowner believes certain HOA rules are violating the law, legal counsel can step in and represent the homeowner.

Homeowners are also encouraged to talk to the HOA board of directors. When reaching out to the board, explain why the rule cannot be enforced or why you believe there is a flaw in the enforcement of an underlying rule.

Is a Homeowner’s Association Right For You

Homeowner’s associations are either hated deeply or loved with a passion. For those that are looking to live in an area where everyone has a well maintained home, and the neighborhood has a strong sense of order and community, a homeowner’s association may be perfect for you.

However, if you are not interested in following rules, or do not agree with the rules of a specific association, you certainly shouldn’t consider purchasing a property within that community. Be sure to fully understand all the HOA rules before purchasing your property.

 

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All material is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as individual financial, investment, or legal advice or instruction. ZeroMortgage does not guarantee the quality, accuracy, completeness or timelines of the information in this publication. While efforts are made to verify the information provided, the information should not be assumed to be error free. Some information in the publication may have been provided by third parties and has not necessarily been verified by ZeroMortgage. ZeroMortgage, its affiliates, and subsidiaries do not assume any liability for the information contained herein, be it direct, indirect, consequential, special, or exemplary, or other damages whatsoever and howsoever caused, arising out of or in connection with the use of this publication or in reliance on the information, including any personal or pecuniary loss, whether the action is in contract, tort (including negligence) or other tortious action. ZeroMortgage does not provide tax advice. Please contact your tax adviser for any tax related questions.

This page last updated: March 21, 2022