HOAs and CC&Rs: How What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Thinking about buying a home that’s part of a homeowners’ association (HOA)? Before submitting your offer, It’s crucial to read through the community’s covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs), which govern the appearance of homes in your new neighborhood or building.
CC&Rs are generally well-intended rules, but they may interfere with future plans, upgrades or major purchases you’ve planned for your new home. Strict enough CC&Rs could lead you to reconsider your purchase altogether.
Understanding how your association functions and the extent of the CC&Rs — before you buy your home — can help you avoid major headaches and potential financial headaches in the future.
The HOA is a legal entity that manages a neighborhood or community. It collects assessments and fees to maintain the appearance and security of amenities, such as parks, pools, gyms, trails and other shared spaces. Homeowners become HOA members with the purchase of property within the community.
The CC&Rs are the rules of your neighborhood or building; they’re created and enforced by the HOA board to enhance the value of everyone’s homes and build a sense of community. How strictly the board adheres to the rules, though, varies from place to place. Be careful to note that CC&Rs can exist without an HOA; in these cases, they generally follow local municipal codes.
CC&Rs can be fairly straightforward guidelines: mow your lawn regularly, park in the garage, maintain general upkeep on your property, etc. But some rules can get specific and restrictive, limiting exterior paint options, tree planting and removal, fencing, outdoor décor and pet ownership. Extra cars, boats and RVs in the driveway are frequent nuisances for many HOAs.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- CC&Rs actually work in your favor.
While it may be tough to remember while you’re fuming over a violation notice from your HOA board, their rules are in place to improve the value of the homes in your community — not to turn everyone into a nosy neighbor. Keeping houses, lawns and community spaces looking their best makes your neighborhood or building attractive to potential homebuyers and will benefit you in the long run, too, should you decide to sell.
- You can challenge the rules …
As members of the HOA, homeowners in the community have a right to debate rules they feel are unfair or outdated. With enough support, they can request a change from the board of directors. It’s important to be active in your HOA, vote on decisions, maybe join a committee and get to know members of the board. They are your neighbors, after all, and you may need their support if you want to challenge the CC&Rs or run for a spot of your own.
- … but you can’t claim ignorance or exclusion after a violation.
Since the purchase of your home essentially confirms that you understand the CC&Rs, ignoring them isn’t an option. Flouting HOA rules and dues can have potentially disastrous consequences, including fines, forced compliance or liens against your property — and, not to mention, tension among neighbors. Because it is a legal body, the HOA can sue over violations. But it’s not exempt from its own rules, so it, too, can be sued for noncompliance (i.e. neglecting repairs, misuse of HOA dues).
- If you’re not sure, ask the HOA board.
Don’t base decisions off fuzzy interpretations of your CC&Rs. It’s worth bringing an issue up with your HOA board to avoid the hassle and potential cost of a violation. You also may find that some of your neighbors have similar questions or concerns.
Terrie Cox has decades of experience with HOAs in the Portland and Vancouver real estate markets. She’s helped her clients understand and expertly navigate their CC&Rs. Call or text her at (360) 607-4100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your HOA questions.