When you own a home that is managed by a homeowners association (HOA), the rights and responsibilities of the HOA as well as each homeowner will be governed by a set of documents. There are procedures to question the rules set forth in these documents, especially when the rules do not align with more powerful state and local laws.
Homeowners Must Follow Written Rules
Your HOA creates and enforces documents called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R). These CC&Rs state all of the rules you must follow. When you buy a home in a covenanted community, you're essentially agreeing to these rules. Your duties as a homeowner include not only when you can play loud music and where you can park your car, but also some areas that really affect the use of your home.
Homeowners Have Voting Rights
If you think that any of these rules are unfair, you and your fellow homeowners can vote to change them. The CC&R will include rules that require a certain number of homeowners to attend an HOA meeting or a minimum number of votes needed before any changes can be made.
Keep in mind that if any of the HOA covenants, conditions and restrictions are illegal, or are being applied in an illegal fashion, it may be time to contact a lawyer instead of waiting to cast your vote.
Homeowners Pay Fees and Assessments
An HOA almost always requires monthly fees to cover the cost of repairing and maintaining community property, like hiring landscapers during the summer months. You have the right to question whether the amount you're being charged is reasonable.
In most cases, however, you can't just stop paying the fees without taking some legal action first. If you stop paying fees without taking formal action, your HOA may be able to put a lien on your house. When this happens, the debt may not go away until it's paid.
Homeowners Have Legal Rights
The CC&R documents may list some of the rights homeowners have when there are disagreements, but this doesn't mean you give up your legal rights. You always have the right to hire an attorney, either by yourself or with other homeowners.
A Real Estate Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding HOA homeowner rights and duties is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a real estate lawyer.