As a resident living in a homeowners’ association (HOA), you have certain expectations of your community—you pay to ensure it remains a great place to live, after all. Owners who choose to live in a neighborhood with an HOA typically enjoy landscaped common areas, community amenities, consistent property values, and more. These luxuries, however, don’t come without the effective leadership of a board of directors and involved members of the community. Being a responsible homeowner in an HOA means being aware of—and adhering to—resident obligations, namely the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs). These are the standards that, when followed, allow the HOA to function smoothly and enable its best features to shine. Read on to learn what CC&Rs are, how they affect you, and more.
What Are CC&Rs?
Remember the many documents you signed when you closed on your home? Among them was a legal form acknowledging that you’d read your HOA’s governing documents and agreed to abide by them. Governing documents include many records, but the most important to homeowners might be the community’s CC&Rs. The CC&Rs detail your community’s development, configuration, and operation. They cover the rights and obligations of members as well as the rights and obligations of the HOA. A lengthy document that entails the legally-binding specifics of your community, you can look to your CC&Rs for information on:
- Fees, dues, special assessments, late payments, and more
- Maintenance responsibilities, including what the homeowner is responsible for and what the association covers
- Architectural standards, like restrictions concerning remodeling and landscaping
- Pet restrictions, such as how many or what types of pets are allowed
How Do CC&Rs Differ From the Bylaws and Rules & Regulations?
Within your governing documents, you’ll also find the bylaws and rules and regulations, but figuring out how they differ from CC&Rs can be confusing. CC&Rs and bylaws are both lawful documents and are enforceable by law enforcement. 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.
Bylaws. Bylaws establish how your association is governed. A guidebook for the HOA board of directors, your bylaws will likely entail particulars on:
- Board member nomination and election processes
- Board member election frequency
- Board member term lengths
- Quorum requirements
Rules & Regulations. The rules and regulations are additional restrictions that help enforce or clarify the CC&Rs. They may also include items that aren’t addressed in the CC&Rs or bylaws. Examples of what you’ll find in the rules and regulations include:
- Parking hours
- Gym hours
- Occupancy limits
- Guest restrictions
How Do CC&Rs Affect Me & My Home?
CC&Rs differ by association, and every community is unique. However, covenants may affect the way you live or how you maintain your property. Because they restrict what you can do on your property, some might prohibit home additions for a growing family or a bird bath for animal lovers. Depending on your tastes and preferences, you might have to find a way to live with or compromise on the items found in your CC&Rs. Here are a few areas of the home that are commonly mentioned in the CC&Rs:
- Front lawn and backyard. Details concerning lawns, shrubs, plants, flowers, trees, and fence heights are likely outlined in your CC&Rs.
- Sidewalk, driveway, and front curb. CC&Rs often restrict trash containers, cars, RVs, and home and garden equipment from blocking these areas.
- Exterior structure. Paint color and structural modifications, like adding shutters to windows, are regularly highlighted in your CC&Rs.
How Are CC&Rs Enforced?
Some HOA boards conduct regular inspections to ensure compliance with CC&Rs. Others wait for violations to be reported.
While penalties for non-compliance vary by community, they typically reflect the severity of the offense and the length of time since the homeowner was notified. In some communities, the first step might be an initial notification and possibly a second warning from the HOA. If the issue isn’t resolved, the next step might be to schedule a non-compliance hearing and then notify the homeowner of the board’s decision and any penalties imposed. Remember that most HOAs have the authority to attach a lien to the property or even initiate foreclosure proceedings, so read and respond quickly if you receive a non-compliance notification from your HOA. Still, every community will address violations differently—there’s no common standard on how to respond to covenant infractions. Check with your association attorney for further guidance specific to your community, city, or state.
Note that HOA CC&Rs cannot conflict with federal, state, or city laws, nor does the HOA have any authority to force a property outside of its jurisdiction to comply with its CC&Rs. Selectively enforcing CC&Rs may also be legally prohibitive, as that could be considered discriminatory. If something doesn’t seem to match up, consult with a board member or your community manager.
Learn the HOA Basics
Understanding how an association functions is important for your investment and quality of life. Becoming active in your HOA is a great way to get to know your neighbors. Like most things, when it comes to HOAs, the more you know, the better off you’ll be. Download our ebook, “A Beginner's Guide to HOAs,” to learn HOA basics, the benefits of living in an HOA, and much more.