Across the United States, over 74 million people live within a homeowner association (HOA) community, according to the Foundation for Community Association Research. That number keeps growing, with over two-thirds of all new homes started in the last year set to fall under HOA governance.
That means more families are starting to learn the ins and outs of the different rules and regulations guiding their HOAs, the most important of which is the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). Typically set while a community is in its initial development stages, the CC&Rs are the core of any HOA, setting its powers, the obligations of its members, property use restrictions, and more.
“These are the legal documents created for specific areas and communities,” said Renee Jeffries, Director of Property Management and Assistant Vice President at 1st American Management Co., Inc. “They provide the rules and regulations that are adhered to in order to keep the neighborhood at a certain standard. They are meant to enhance the enjoyment of the owners that share in the common interest of the CC&Rs.”
While a Declaration of CC&Rs often seems strict, they are ultimately meant to protect the community, its families, and their properties.
“Generally speaking, moving into a restrictive community is voluntary,” Bylen said. “When folks purchase a home, they’re buying into not only real estate but also a set of mutual rights, obligations, and standards. This protects the property values with certain controls that prevent a neighbor from erecting something that is not in keeping with the subdivision.”
There is no limit to what kind of bylaws CC&Rs might enforce, and they have to be agreed to when purchasing a home within their jurisdiction. Some of the most common bylaws might require regular lawn maintenance, like keeping grass below a certain height. Others might limit what color you can paint your home, or require trash containers to be hidden from view. Many CC&Rs might even have rules regarding pets.
“Restrictions related to pets tend to be highly sensitive with homeowners,” said Peter Bylen, Property Manager at 1st American Management Co., Inc. “Due to close living arrangements, some associations limit the number or size of dogs, while others have breed-specific restrictions.”
When a homeowner is found in violation of a CC&R, they are given notice to cure the defect. If the matter remains unresolved, the CC&R itself typically outlines enforcement protocols such as a hearing or other sanctions including fines or loss of privileges such as the use of community facilities like pools or gyms. If the situation continues to escalate, the HOA might forcibly correct the issue (such as mowing the lawn and billing you for it) or file a lawsuit – but those outcomes are fairly rare, according to Bylen.
“More often than not, violations are inadvertent and corrected once they’re brought to a homeowner’s attention,” he said. “Most associations’ governing documents detail an enforcement procedure which provides the homeowner due process where their circumstances can be heard, and the corrective actions can possibly be nuanced.”
CC&Rs are living documents, and as a community grows, so do its covenants. If a particular restriction is overwhelmingly unpopular, HOA members can lobby for an amendment.
“Amendments require a certain approval vote from the membership,” Jeffries said. “Once approved and recorded, copies of the amendment are sent out to all owners for them to retain for their records. Covenants can already be large documents, but if there are amendments, they will be at the back of the set and should be looked at and reviewed.”
The Board is required to uniformly enforce the covenants for the protection of all residents to maintain property values and quality of life in the community and has the ultimate responsibility for overseeing compliance. 1st American Management Co., Inc. assists the Board of Directors by verifying the content of the covenants as well as any violations as they occur. In addition to these services provided to board members and homeowners regarding rules, regulations, and Covenants and Restrictions, 1st American also provides financial management and maintenance services to their managed HOA’s and commercial properties.
To learn more about 1st American Management, visit 1stpropertymanagers.com.