ABCs of the HOA: Rules and Regulations

When it comes to homeowners associations, there are rules and regulations to promote community structure and safety. Although sometimes it may seem like they’re not always working for you, but against you, learning a little more about how they operate can be a great way to work with your homeowners association.  Understanding more of the ways your HOA can effectively protect your community can provide great assurance that this is a partnership worth having.

Curious if your HOA has the authority to regulate specific items or take action? Search and learn more about the state and local laws that pertain to your community… Or, if you’re already a contributing HOA board member looking to gain a better understanding of the rules and governing documents specific to you and avoid situations that could result in a dispute or misunderstanding, here is what you need to know when it comes to HOA bylaws, regulations, and CC&Rs:

CC&Rs

All HOA regulations begin and end with CC&Rs. The declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions contains the rules and restrictions that all land owners must follow within a homeowners association, community association, or property owners association. These rules apply specifically to the land because CC&Rs are said to run with the land. Regardless of who owns the property, the rules apply to the land owner.

CC&Rs are the specific guidelines for things like parking, pets, noise, yard maintenance, and general nuisances. They also contain necessary guidelines for creating and executing the architectural control committee.

In addition, CC&Rs detail the homeowners association’s covenant of assessments. This covenant is the right an association has to charge a specified amount of dues to each of its members. Furthermore, this document lists the consequences for not complying with covenant enforcement. These dues vary by HOA and aid in establishing a community that is well maintained.

The ACC

Otherwise known as the architecture control committee, the ACC is responsible for ensuring that any changes made to the exterior of homes within the community conform to specific guidelines previously outlined within the governing documents. Another important component of the ACC is to ensure that any exterior modifications made will not negatively impact the aesthetics of the community.  For example, if a homeowner would like to paint the exterior of their home, the ACC can either approve or deny their request based on the color recommendations outlined in the CC&Rs. Your HOA management company works hand in hand with the ACC to optimize your community’s appearance.

While members of your board may change over time, the ability to manage community improvements is vital to the overall stability of an HOA and the image a community and its residents desire. When alterations to a home are made without proper approval from the HOA, the board will need to take whatever action is deemed appropriate and necessary. This consistency and the expectation of homeowners will help to ensure the processes are followed and preserve order within the community.

The Board and the ACC

The powers of the board and the ACC working together can accomplish a lot when it comes to the appearance of the neighborhood. Much of what is outlined in the CC&Rs pertains to lawn maintenance. The board of directors has the power to enforce rules in regards to community members’ lawns, which can include: mowing, weed removal, watering, removal of dead plants and trees, edging, and replacing dead grass. If you live within a gated community, your association also owns the streets, and parking regulations must be enforced. This is why many HOAs are able to dictate parking within the community.

There are also specific regulations when it comes to vehicles being stored on the property. Boats, trailers, broken vehicles, tractors, or other recreational vehicles can be unsightly and potentially impact property values over time. Guidelines regarding vehicle storage are addressed in the CC&Rs.

Other rules may specify things like maintenance of pets and/or noise levels. CC&Rs include what types of domesticated animals are allowed and how many can be kept on a lot. As a general guideline, two dogs and two cats are usually allowed, but some communities may vary. Because the CC&Rs include rules on animals being confined to the owner’s property or being on a leash at all times, these rules are to be enforced by the HOA management company and are just an example of some of the rules you may encounter.

While some aspects of HOA management companies may be frustrating, there are also times when you will greatly appreciate their ability to enforce specific rules and regulations. For example, if your neighbor has multiple animals that are getting into your property and potentially destroying your grass, the HOA management company can enforce guidelines to help protect your property from future damage. Or, if the homeowner across the street decides to paint their home a bright orange instead of its prior sandy taupe, to help protect the community from declining property values and to ensure an aesthetically pleasing view, the HOA management company can follow the proper steps to see that appropriate action is taken.

Common Areas

The common areas are of the utmost importance for any HOA. This is where you and your association members spend time together, and it’s important that the areas are well maintained. Unfortunately, there are some members of a community who may not share your invested interest. In such cases, there are specific rules and regulations for members who may use the common areas within your community.

Community members may, from time to time, be overly noisy or disregard care for common areas, which can be detrimental to the harmony of your HOA.  Oftentimes, residents simply need to be reminded of the regulations when it comes to being a responsible community member. There may also be some confusion when it comes to what the common area is. Common areas can be hallways, shared access laundry rooms, stairwells, lobbies, basement and roof access areas, courtyards, pathways, lawns, or any other areas with community amenities like sports courts, pools, playgrounds and fitness centers.

Once you’ve clarified any confusion in regards to what is considered a common area, ensure proper consideration is given to all residents. For example, if a community member is leaving trash in the laundry room or hallway, proper steps may be followed to communicate with them. It is important for homeowners to know that being a courteous member of the neighborhood is expected and any repeat instances of misuse will not be tolerated.

Playground

A playground is part of a community that the board oversees. They can be a great feature within a community, but can also be a hazard. If children are left unsupervised or if equipment is not well maintained or properly used, it can become a danger to the residents.

While the association is responsible for the general maintenance of the playground, the HOA is not responsible for supervising children that may be using the amenities. Parents must be aware that children need to be supervised at all times. Inform members that the equipment on the playground must be used properly to reduce the risk of someone getting hurt. In addition, communicate that any rough or aggressive play, such as pushing, shoving, fighting, or throwing rocks, sand, and other objects is not to be tolerated.

Setting an opening and closing time, such as 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (or another time span that generally corresponds with daylight), is also a good idea. Additionally, closing play areas during extreme weather conditions can prevent accidents and injury.

When your community playground has blacktop or asphalt surfaces, refrain from letting children roller-blade or ride skate boards or bicycles in and around the playground area to help prevent possible accidents from occurring. In addition, pets should not be allowed in the playground area to avoid any dangerous situations involving children.

The HOA is responsible for making sure that playground equipment is used safely and follows any consumer product safety guidelines. Community managers may visit the playground on a regular basis to review the equipment and request vendor assistance to perform any necessary maintenance or repairs.

Unenforceable Rules

When changes in local, state, or federal laws are made in regards to homeowners associations, it’s important that those changes are reflected within the community rules and regulations. If your current governing documents contradict any changes of the law that have occurred, you could be in violation of the law. HOA management companies must examine governing documents to avoid problems. There are three rules within a community association’s governing documents that may violate the law. It is your responsibility to be familiar with these documents to make sure the rules are being properly followed.

  • The first rule to verify in your governing documents is in regard to children under a certain age gaining access to the community pool. Because children are more likely to be involved in accidents at the pool, they are a liability for the association. However, setting proper rules for children using the community pool can help protect you. Children may not be banned from the pool entirely because it violates the federal Fair Housing Law, and you would be responsible should a lawsuit occur.
  • The second rule is in regard to the use of satellite dishes. By federal law, you cannot ban a resident from installing an using a satellite dish; however, you can enforce a rule stating the satellite cannot be more than one meter in diameter.
  • The third rule, operated by state law, is that an association cannot ban the installation and use of solar energy panels. Even if you find them to be unsightly, they can be installed at the request of a homeowner. It’s also against the law for an association to make installing solar panels too difficult or expensive for members.

Improve Your Community

When the members of your community and board are familiar with the governing documents, rules, and restrictions of your HOA, it creates a much more harmonious place to live. Be mindful of the boundaries and follow proper steps to ensure you and your community members enjoy the boundaries that a well-managed HOA neighborhood provides.

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