HOA 101: Rules & Regulations

August 6, 2019

For many people, homeowners’ associations (HOAs) have become synonymous with rules. While it's true that part of association membership requires abiding by community guidelines, HOA life is about far more than following a long list of rules. Community guidelines and rules can help lay the foundation for a successful neighborhood, and as community association experts, we're here to help answer the who, what, and why of HOA rules.

What are HOA rules and regulations?

When you purchase a home that’s part of a community association, you automatically become a member of the association and become responsible for following all its rules and regulations. The primary purpose of having community rules and standards is to protect your investment as a homeowner and provide a common framework for neighbors.

Benefits of HOA Rules

At first glance, having rules for a neighborhood or community may seem restrictive. However, there are many benefits to having a robust set of guidelines, including:

  • Preserving the aesthetics of an area
  • Protecting and enhancing home values
  • Enforcing the community’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) & Bylaws
  • Maintaining the property of the association and its owners

Examples of Common HOA Rules

Every community is unique. You’ll need to check with your HOA board and governing documents for details for your HOA's specific rules. However, there are some guidelines that are generally standard in most communities, including:

  • Architectural controls
  • Lawn and holiday decoration restrictions
  • Home maintenance standards
  • Noise complaint policies
  • Home occupancy limits
  • Parking rules and guidelines
  • Pet size and quantity limits
  • Short-term rental restrictions
  • Trash and recycling rules

How do I find my HOA's rules?

HOA rules are set by their governing documents and all applicable local, state, and federal laws. You can request to view your governing documents to learn more. This collection of documents will include information about your specific rules, restrictions, and other guidelines. Governing documents include CC&Rs, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, and other rules and regulations made by the community.

What are the Articles of Incorporation?

In the United States and Canada, a corporation must file Articles of Incorporation to operate. As a non-profit organization, your HOA will have to register within their jurisdiction and include that filing within your governing documents.

What are CC&Rs?

Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, sometimes called the declaration or master deed is a legal document which outlines the rights and responsibilities of the association, board members, and homeowners. It details the ownership rights of the homeowners vs. the association and will spell out architectural standards for the community. The rules contained in your HOA's CC&Rs are binding and permanent.

What are Bylaws?

While the CC&Rs tend to focus more on the property and ownership rights of the association, the Bylaws outline the logistics of how the community and HOA should function. They often include election guidelines and term limits for board members, along with details on meetings and budgets for the community.

Additional HOA Rules and Regulations

Your HOA can pass additional regulations to help enforce and clarify the rules outlined within their CC&Rs. These rules often can be adopted by the board without a vote from all the homeowners if they aren’t more restrictive than existing guidelines.

Who makes the rules for my HOA?

The source for almost all your HOA's rules will be your governing documents. These documents are created during the formation of the association—usually by the developer of a property. Once the developer turns over control of the community, your HOA is run by an elected board of directors. This board has the power to implement additional rules. Additionally, local, state, and federal government bodies also pass new laws that may create or alter regulations that are set by your association. 

Can an HOA board change or add rules?

In most cases, your community’s rules aren't set in stone. The board often has the authority to adopt new rules for the community. However, if these rules significantly alter the governing documents, then a vote by all members of the association is typically required. In general, homeowners have a lot of influence on how their community operates. If you aren't happy with a particular rule, then use the proper channels to change your HOA’s rules. Attending your board meetings and working with your board is the best way to monitor the rules in your community.

Do I have to follow my HOA's rules?

It’s always in your best interest to adhere to the rules and regulations of your community. When neighbors work together to enhance their association, everyone sees the benefits—from increased property values to a greater sense of community and belonging.

How does an HOA enforce rules?

Not following HOA rules can carry legal and financial consequences. Enforcement policies may include warnings, fines, and more. If penalties aren't paid, your HOA may act by placing a lien on your home. However, most violations get corrected with a friendly reminder by phone or mail.

Can the police enforce HOA rules?

While the rules and regulations of an HOA are legally binding for association members, they generally aren’t enforceable by law enforcement. Instead, violations of association guidelines are considered a civil matter between the HOA and offending member. As such, any dispute that can't be resolved at the community level will need to be handled by mediation or in civil court. The exception to this is when your HOA's rules overlap other laws. These laws could include parking violations for public streets or county noise restrictions that may mirror your HOA rules.

Learn More About HOA Rules

If you have more questions about HOA's and their rules, please ask us in the comment section. You can also check out our free ebook, "Is It a Good HOA Rule?" to learn more about HOA rules and how they are made.

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