- With HOA rules having more of an impact on homeownership than ever before, now is the time investors started taking them seriously.
- Homeowners association rules coincide with significant benefits, but they come at a price.
- Common HOA rules can alter an investor’s exit strategy.
Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are more commonplace than they have been in years past, which means more and more homeowners need to be aware of what they are buying into. If for nothing else, it’s entirely possible for HOA rules to impact not only one’s quality of life, but also their asset’s bottom line. That said, it’s in your best interest to pay special considerations to the most common HOA rules and how they impact homeowners living within their jurisdiction. There is no doubt about it: HOAs exercise a lot of power over communities, and you are only doing yourself a disservice if you neglect to learn their rules.
Before you buy your next investment property, be sure to familiarize yourself with the HOA rules; you will be glad you did.
What Are HOAs?
HOAs are the governing bodies that establish rules and regulations traditionally used to run a particular housing development. Homeowners associations exist because developers have a vested interest in the success of their respective neighborhoods. HOAs are essentially private associations formed by developers to market, manage, sell and maintain the status quo of a particular residential jurisdiction. In other words, HOAs enable developers to keep tabs on their projects after homes have sold.
It is worth noting, however, that developers tend to transfer ownership of the HOA to the homeowners that have bought into their community once a certain amount of lots have been sold. It is at that time that the concerns of the community transfer from the developer to the homeowners themselves. To see to it that things go as smoothly as possible, HOAs will implement their own set of CC&Rs.
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Sample HOA Rules And Regulations
In order to maintain the status quo, most HOAs have become synonymous with a number of rules, not the least of which include:
- Fee Obligations: HOAs are, more or less, a community service put in place to provide the best living experience possible. That said, nothing is free, and HOAs are no exception. While HOAs are put in place for the greater good of a particular area, their services come at a cost, or—as HOAs call them—dues. If for nothing else, it’s the dues that allow HOAs to govern neighborhoods and maintain what they deem to be acceptable living conditions.
- Pet Regulations: HOAs have developed a reputation for implementing strict pet regulations. While some HOAs don’t care about the pets individual homeowners choose to live with, the majority of them feel obligated to apply several pet regulations—to exercise more control over the community, nonetheless. Pets, after all, partake in and share many of the local amenities, so it only makes sense that a lot of HOAs would like to exercise control over them. As a result, pet regulations have become some of the most common HOA rules across the country—much to the dismay of disgruntled homeowners.
- Rental Guidelines: Investors need to know that their renters will be subject to the same CC&Rs as everyone else. Most homeowners choosing to rent out their property must, therefore, notify the HOA. Perhaps even more importantly, the renters will be expected to abide by the HOA rules that are in place. If you intend to rent out a property within an HOA’s jurisdiction, make sure your renters will follow the rules, as there are penalties for failing to do so.
- Maintenance Standards: More often than not, homeowners associated with an HOA will need to maintain their curb appeal. It is not typically acceptable to neglect routine maintenance (like mowing and watering the lawn), as it ruins the aesthetics of the neighborhood, which could—in turn—bring down perceived value. That said, it’s entirely up to the owner that the home looks acceptable and meets the HOA’s standards.
- Occupancy Limits: Most HOA rules will limit the amount of people that can inhabit one dwelling, as to reduce congestion. Often times, limits will be set by the home’s square footage. The bigger a home is, the more people an HOA may allow to live within it.
- Parking: Parking regulations are some of the most common HOA rules. More often than not, parking rules regulate what vehicles are permitted, what may be done with them, speed regulations and parking stipulations.
- Noise: Most HOAs urge homeowners to exercise restraint when it comes to noisy activities. A good majority of HOAs will exercise quiet hours, where noise restrictions are put in place to keep the neighborhood quiet at certain times of the day.
The aforementioned HOA rules are not representative of every single rule one would find at an HOA, but rather the most common ones. You see, there are countless rules put in place by HOAs that vary dramatically, but each HOA will follow their own set of rules. Those listed above aren’t guaranteed to govern your own home, but there is a better than good chance they might.
Housing developments across the United States have developed their own unique set of HOA rules, which has lead to a lot of confusion. The sheer volume of HOAs represented across the country leaves little room for a universal structure. There are simply too many homeowners association rules for anyone to be familiar with every development’s guidelines. As a result, just about everyone has at least one question about HOAs, if not several. To help solve this problem, we have compiled a list of some of today’s most common HOA questions and their respective answers. Hopefully the following answers will help clarify your own HOA inquiries.
HOA Restrictions: When Can You Fight Back?
Most HOAs implement rules in order to maintain their particular neighborhood’s status quo. However, there are times when the HOAs themselves may actually cross a line. While not common, it is possible for HOAs to break the rules themselves. If for nothing else, homeowners associations are bound by federal and state laws, too. Not unlike the laws we all have to follow, HOAs must abide by their own regulations. That said, homeowners may fight back in the event their own HOA commits any of the following transgressions (and more):
- Thanks to the Fair Housing Act, HOAs can’t discriminate.
- HOAs can’t fine homeowners for breaking rules that aren’t listed in the community’s CC&Rs.
- HOAs can’t enforce new rules that haven’t officially been put in place.
- Thanks to the FCC’s Over-The-Air Reception Devices Rule, HOAs can’t tell homeowners to take down their satellite dishes.
Can Police Enforce HOA Rules?
With regard to a specific HOA’s by-laws, the local police have no authority. HOA by-laws are considered to be of a civil nature, and therefore can’t result in criminal action. Thats said, by-law infringements may be brought to a civil court, where violations may result in a monetary penalty. In addition to awarding money damages, the court (not the HOA) can request police intervention.
Can Homeowners Associations Evict People?
While not as direct as eviction, there is a legal process that could eventually lead to the removal of a homeowner from their personal residence. Delinquent fees, for example, could permit the HOA to levy a lien on the property. Homeowners with a lien won’t be able to sell or refinance the home until the outstanding balance is paid. However, if the lien remains unpaid for too long, the HOA can choose to foreclose on it, which means that the home could be sold to pay the outstanding balance. That’s because homeowners must maintain their financial obligations, not the least of which are the HOA documents that were signed at the time of purchase.
More often than not, homeowners moving into an area controlled by an HOA will need to sign documents stating that they agree to letting the HOA take any unpaid fees out of the cost of the home. Likewise, most HOAs will make homeowners agree that the HOA would be the primary non-mortgage lien holder, and could use your house as the collateral for unpaid HOA debts. Therefore, unpaid debts could turn into a lien, which—if not taken care of—can cause the lien to foreclose. In the event a lien is foreclosed on, homeowners can be evicted from their home and the subject property can be sold in a foreclosure sale to cover the debt.
What Are CC&Rs?
CC&Rs, otherwise known as the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, are the rules and regulations governing the housing decisions of homeowners. More importantly, CC&Rs describe what homeowners in a respective neighborhood may and may not do with their properties. At a closer look, however, CC&Rs don’t simply govern the decisions made by homeowners, but also preserve, and enhance property values in their community. If for nothing else, CC&Rs represent a means to improve the community.
How To Become An HOA Board Member
Simply buying a home in an HOA is enough to make someone a member of said HOA. That said, there’s a significant difference between being a member of an HOA and being an HOA board member. HOA board members are essentially elected officials, each of whom are voted on by their respective HOA members. As elected officials, board members bear the responsibility of operating, repairing, replacing, and maintaining the development’s shared spaces.
While put in place to maintain local communities, typical HOA rules can vary dramatically from development to development. (Rules that may be commonplace in one community may be irrelevant in another.) As a result, every investor should pay special considerations to common HOA rules, as they will have a bigger impact on an investment than many people realize.
Have you encountered any additional HOA rules in your time as an investor? Let us know what you think about HOAs in the comments below:
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