July 27th, 2019 7:57 AM by Jackie A. Graves, President
When you’re on
the hunt for a new place, you’ll notice that some homes are in a community with
a homeowners association, or HOA. Some folks think of HOAs as over-reaching
neighborhood patrols, while others believe the rules protect and enhance
“All of these
communities — more than 350,000 nationally — share a few essential goals, says
Dawn Bauman, senior vice president, government and public affairs for the
Community Associations Institute (CAI). “(This includes) preserving the nature
and character of the community, providing services and amenities to residents
and protecting property values.
All HOAs come
with rules, though, and failure to follow them can result in unpleasant
consequences. Just ask Atlanta homeowner Parker Singletary. Before Atlanta
hosted the Super Bowl in February 2019, one of his neighbors mentioned that
residents were allowed to rent their homes just for that weekend.
Singletary cleaned his house, took photos and posted them on a
popular property rental site. “Nobody ended up taking my house for the weekend,
so I thought I was done with the situation,” he says. Instead, he received a
cease and desist letter from a local law firm for breaking the HOA rules, along
with a $1,000 fine.
If you’re one
of the more than 73 million Americans who reside in one of these communities,
it’s important to make sure you’re following all of your homeowners association
rules. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about HOA rules
and how to avoid potential trouble.
is an HOA?
A HOA is a
group of community property owners who volunteer to create covenants,
conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and who manage the community’s property
and common areas. Typically, these groups of volunteer neighbors contract a
professional management company to help enforce the community bylaws.
associations are legal entities in which the owners enjoy the protection,
enhancement, maintenance and preservation of their homes and property,” Bauman
explains. “Membership in the community association is mandatory and automatic
for all owners.”
By being a
part of a HOA and following HOA rules, residents may get benefits like
groundskeeping, exterior maintenance, trash pick up and code enforcement. When
new homeowners buy a home in the HOA-governed community,
they commit to following the rules.
happens if you ignore HOA rules?
discovered, whether you knowingly break the homeowners association rules or
overstep them by mistake, the consequences can be costly. If a bylaw is broken,
it’s the association’s responsibility to notify the offending resident to allow
them to comply and/or to assign a fine.
Singletary’s case, he didn’t receive a warning. Instead, he received a $1,000
fine, which he appealed. The fine was later reduced to $300 to cover legal
fees. “I begrudgingly paid the $300 to avoid a lien from the HOA, but I will be
at the (next) appeal meeting to try and get it back,” he says.
answer is yes, police can enforce some HOA rules. Case in point, homeowners
association rules and covenants have to comply with state and local laws and
ordinances, which are enforceable by local law enforcement.
residents purchase a home in homeowner and condominium associations, they
contractually agree to become part of an association with their fellow owners,
all of whom are bound by the association’s governing documents,” Bauman says.
police could enforce speed limits, noise ordinances and pet leash laws because
they are legal matters, but they wouldn’t enforce other HOA rules on
landscaping or paint violations.
the HOA force a homeowner to sell a home for not following the HOA rules?
association can’t force an owner to sell a home for not following the HOA
rules. However, community associations can enforce the rules and initiate
reasonable fines for violations. If a homeowner doesn’t pay fines, late fees
can pile up and an HOA can put a lien against the home (even if it has a
mortgage) and foreclose on the lien, too.
racking up fines, here are some of the most common HOA rules violations you
should know about.
Living in an
HOA community isn’t for everyone. If you want the freedom to update your home
as you see fit, ask your real estate agent to help you find homes that don’t
belong to restrictive HOAs.
doubt, do your homework and read the rules before making an offer on a home
that belongs to an HOA.
have the right to receive all documents that address rules and regulations
governing the community association,” Bauman says. “Since association rules
vary from community to community, common HOA violations also differ.”
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