5 HOA Maintenance Plans You Must Have

Contrary to the popular adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” homeowners associations must be proactive when it comes to maintaining common areas. It’s important to have maintenance plans so the community can run efficiently. By anticipating repairs and replacements, board members can also drastically reduce HOA expenses. For a smooth-running association, here are five HOA maintenance plans you must have.

 

Why Do You Need HOA Maintenance Plans?

tools | predictive hoa planA lot of HOAs still do not have solid maintenance plans in place. Instead, these associations have a reactive approach to maintenance.

The board will wait for something to fail before repairing or replacing the component. This reactive approach is very common in financially-strapped associations. Since maintenance costs money, they will defer repairs or replacements until they are absolutely necessary.

However, a reactive approach to maintenance will only end up costing the association more. Reactive maintenance tends to cost 9 to 10 times more than preventive maintenance. While preventive maintenance requires an association to spend money at regular intervals, they will end up spending less in the long run. This is also because preventive maintenance deals with minor issues. On the other hand, reactive maintenance already deals with major damage to a component, which is more costly to repair or replace.

Apart from being cost-effective, here are the other benefits of having HOA maintenance plans:

Longer Lifespan

As part of a maintenance plan, the HOA will conduct regular repairs for common area components. By keeping everything in good working condition, HOA can extend the useful life of components. Thus, the association can get a better value for its money.

Promotes a Safe Environment

When common area elements are properly maintained, they are less likely to break down and cause safety hazards for your residents. With a maintenance plan in place, the HOA can also monitor the structural integrity of components. This helps prevent significant damage in case of catastrophic weather conditions such as hurricanes, storms, and floods.

Keeps Residents Happy

HOA maintenance plans ensure that common areas are always running as they should. There are no unexpected closures due to equipment failure. When everything is functioning as designed, residents are able to use the association’s amenities or services freely. Thus, homeowners are happier and have a better quality of life.

Increases Property Values

HOA maintenance plans help preserve property values. A community that is beautiful and well-maintained is more likely to attract new homebuyers. Welcoming new homeowners to the community is not only good for morale, but it also keeps the association financially stable.

 

5 HOA Maintenance Plans You Must Have

laptop | seasonal hoa maintenanceWith a better understanding of the benefits of HOA maintenance plans, here are five that you must have for your association.

1. Preventive HOA Maintenance Plan

Preventive maintenance is the most popular type of HOA maintenance plan. It requires associations to be more proactive about repairs and replacements.

Common area components are maintained on a regular — regardless of their condition. The purpose of this maintenance plan is to prevent the likelihood of a component from breaking down or to at least minimize the consequences in case the component fails.

Preventive maintenance is typically time-based. Components are maintained weekly, monthly, or annually. However, preventive maintenance can also be based on usage cycles. Examples of scheduled maintenance include pool maintenance every month, gutter cleaning every six months, parking lot restriping every 12 months, and lightbulb replacement every 25,000 hours.

Scheduled maintenance also makes HOA budget planning easier. The board can anticipate the maintenance needs of the association and will budget accordingly. Thus, there are no surprise expenses.

 

2. Predictive HOA Maintenance Plan

Predictive maintenance is similar to preventive maintenance since it is a proactive type of maintenance plan. It is also a condition-based maintenance plan.

Here, you are operating on the assumption that common area components will give warning signs when failure is about to occur. As such, a predictive maintenance plan requires constant monitoring of common area components. The goal is to detect minor problems and address them as soon as possible.

Predictive maintenance can help save associations money. Since you’re able to address minor issues before they develop into large-scale damage, you can also avoid costly repairs and replacements.

A prime candidate for predictive or condition-based maintenance would be the HVAC system. While preventive maintenance for HVAC is also important, it cannot completely detect problems that may lead to failure.

Predictive maintenance for HVAC may include a machine teardown every 5,000 hours to collect important data and measure its condition. For systems like the HVAC, predictive maintenance is more cost-effective.

 

3. Seasonal HOA Maintenance Plans

Seasonal maintenance plans are essentially preventive maintenance. However, if you want a comprehensive maintenance plan for your community, it can be beneficial to have a specific maintenance plan for every season. This would include maintenance tasks that are applicable during a certain season. For instance, snow removal services are only needed during the wintertime.

Seasonal maintenance plans can also help determine the ideal timing for certain maintenance tasks. A spring maintenance plan can include repainting the common areas, resurfacing asphalt surfaces, landscaping, and other tasks that are more suited for drier weather conditions.

 

4. Deferred Maintenance Plan

HOAs should not aspire to have a deferred maintenance plan, which is when maintenance tasks are put into a backlog due to financial restraints. However, finances are a major concern for many associations. Some HOAs may have no other option but to defer maintenance plans.

If you are considering this type of maintenance plan, only do so for non-essential maintenance tasks. Do not defer maintenance for components and equipment that your homeowners need or rely on. Your deferred maintenance plan should not lead to safety and health hazards for the entire community, a decline in property values, and an increase in insurance costs.

 

5. Emergency Maintenance Plan

While not literally a maintenance plan, the HOA board has the obligation to prepare for any type of emergency. It is a type of corrective maintenance that requires immediate action. It will take precedence over other maintenance tasks. As a result, your normal maintenance schedule becomes disrupted. Consequently, it could also disrupt the community’s overall operations.

An example of emergency maintenance would be a roof collapse. Since having a roof is essential, the HOA will have to focus on repairing it. Roof replacement is very expensive, so it may deplete resources intended for other maintenance tasks. This is not ideal because these other components also need regular maintenance to function properly.

However, an emergency maintenance plan can be useful when incorporated into the HOA’s disaster management plan. If the association can anticipate the emergency failure of components or equipment, they can also create action plans for how to deal with these extreme situations.

If the HOA board makes plans for the possibility of roof collapse due to a natural calamity — such as saving money specifically for roof expenses — the association won’t be left in disarray in case it really happens.

 

How to Create Successful HOA Maintenance Plans

checklist | emergency maintenance planHaving several HOA maintenance plans makes your community better prepared for whatever may happen in the future — whether it is expected or unexpected. Regardless of what HOA maintenance plan you might have for your community, here are some tips to make it as successful as possible.

  • Board members should continue to have an active role in HOA maintenance plans. Do not entrust everything to your HOA management company. In case there is a management change, you won’t be left scrambling on what needs to be done.
  • Regular inspections are essential, especially if you have preventive and predictive HOA maintenance plans in place. Do not hesitate to enlist the services of an engineer or property manager. They will know what to look out for and will be more likely to notice subtle changes in your components’ condition.
  • An HOA reserve study is critical when developing your maintenance plans. You need an up-to-date reserve study to determine the remaining useful life of components. This will be very useful when coming up with your maintenance schedule.
  • Have a log of all common area components. You should also have all relevant documentation for each component, such as warranties, manuals, repair history, maintenance requirements, expected costs, and timeframes.

 

Create HOA Maintenance Plans for Better Community Operations

If you want your community to run like a well-oiled machine, it’s important to have HOA maintenance plans in place. With an HOA maintenance plan, the board has a complete log of common area components as well as maintenance schedules and timeframes. Since there are many common area components in an association, being as organized as possible will help you save time and money. HOA maintenance plans have other attractive benefits as well, including high property values, increased quality of life for homeowners, and financial stability.

 

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How To Make An HOA Violation Letter

In every homeowners association, there will be homeowners who break the rules accidentally or intentionally. That’s why HOA boards must take non-compliance seriously. At the first sign of offense, they must send an HOA violation letter to remind a homeowner of his obligations to the HOA. If you want to improve rule enforcement, here’s a helpful guide for creating HOA violation letters.

 

What Is the Purpose of an HOA Violation Letter?

Homeowners must sign a contract to join an HOA community. After this, they are legally obliged to follow the stipulations of the contract. This includes a set of rules and regulations set forth by the association. Compliance with these covenants is essential in creating a peaceful and harmonious community. HOA rules also serve to protect the interests of the community at large — including the preservation of property values.

Nevertheless, HOA communities still deal with non-compliance regularly. There are many homeowners who simply forget, but there are also others who make a conscious effort to bypass HOA rules. In both cases, HOA boards must make sure to enforce the covenants.

The purpose of an HOA violation notice is to inform homeowners of their non-compliance. The letter must include specific details about the purported offense, what homeowners can do to rectify the situation and a reasonable time frame for them to implement these changes. The contents of the HOA violation letter may also depend on your governing documents, as well as state and local laws.

 

How to Make an HOA Violation Letter: 7 Easy Steps

how to | HOA violation lettersThe violation letter is an important document that all HOAs must have. Once you have an official template, it will be easier to follow up on HOA violations in your community.

Here are seven steps to follow when creating violation letters for your HOA community:

 

1. State the Purpose of the HOA Violation Letter

At the start, state your reason for issuing an HOA violation letter. Cite the specific section in your covenants that the homeowner has violated or not complied with. This helps establish the legitimacy of the HOA violation.

 

2. Provide Evidence of HOA Violation

Inform the homeowner that following a property inspection, they were found to have violated HOA rules and regulations. If possible, include pictures as evidence of the HOA violation.

 

3. Request for Necessary Changes

Indicate what changes the homeowner should make to resolve the violation.

 

4. Give a Reasonable Time Period for These Changes

Give homeowners enough time to make necessary changes to their property. Make sure the time period is appropriate considering the type of HOA violation. Some violations may only take a couple of days or weeks while more serious violations could require 30 days or longer.

 

5. Include Details of Disciplinary Hearing

All homeowners have a legal right to a disciplinary hearing before being penalized by their association. If homeowners want to contest their violation, they may do so during the hearing. With serious HOA violations, the board may also compel homeowners to attend the disciplinary hearing. They can learn additional details that will provide insight into what consequences an offending homeowner will receive.

 

6. Send HOA Violation Letter to Offending Homeowner

Consult your governing documents and state laws on the proper way of sending HOA violation letters. Some areas or communities may require HOA violation letters to be sent via registered mail or be personally delivered to the offending homeowner.

 

7. Follow Up with an HOA Warning Letter

If homeowners do not respond to the HOA violation letter or have not made the necessary changes to their property, the board should send a warning letter as a follow-up. The second violation letter can be more strongly worded to encourage compliance.

Meanwhile, in the final warning letter, you can inform the offending homeowner that their case will be sent to an HOA attorney or a collections company for further action. It should also include any fines or consequences that the homeowner has due to non-compliance.

 

Free HOA Violation Letter Template

As long as you follow the above-mentioned steps, it will be easy to create a violation letter for your HOA. If you need some inspiration, there are plenty of HOA violation letter templates available. Here is a free sample template from HOA Management (.com).

hoa violation letter template

 

Click here to download the free HOA violation letter template.

Additional Reminders for HOA Violation Letters

reminder | community violation lettersAs a board member, here are some other things to keep in mind when creating and sending your HOA violation letters:

  • Covenant enforcement should be fair and uniform. Make sure to follow the same process for everyone. Selective enforcement will only encourage homeowners to break the rules. It may even lead to discrimination cases and other liabilities for the HOA.
  • Ensure that your HOA violation letter is complete. Include details and pictures as much as possible. This lessens the chance that a homeowner will dispute the violation.
  • Homeowners have a legal right to a disciplinary hearing and appeals process. Make sure to have these proceedings before the HOA board issues a final verdict.
  • Try to resolve HOA disputes arising from violations within the community. If the matter is taken to court, both the HOA and homeowner will end up spending a lot of time, money, and energy. These disputes may also strain relationships in your community.

 

Solidify Your Covenant Enforcement Process with an HOA Violation Letter

In order to create a peaceful and harmonious community, everyone must do their part. Homeowners must follow the rules and regulations. Meanwhile, the HOA board must ensure that all members are complying with these covenants.

Enforcing rules is difficult so it’s important to have an established process — which usually begins with an HOA violation letter. As long as you have these steps in place, HOA boards will find covenants enforcement much more manageable.

 

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Are HOA Flag Restrictions Legal?

Members of a homeowners association must follow all the rules and regulations set forth by their governing body. The main purpose of these restrictions is to protect property values and the interests of the entire community. However, is it legal for the HOA to regulate or prohibit flags? Here’s what you need to know about HOA flag restrictions.

 

HOA Flag Restrictions: Can HOA Prohibit Flags in Your Community?

An HOA cannot prohibit its homeowners from displaying the U.S. flag on their property. Based on the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, it is illegal for homeowners, condominium, or co-op associations to enforce any policy that restricts or prevents a member’s right to display the U.S. flag on their residential property.

The federal law also includes two considerations. First, the flag must be displayed or used properly in accordance with federal law. Second, the association can place “reasonable restrictions on the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag” to protect its substantial interests.

 

Can HOA Regulate Flags?

regulations | Are HOA Flag Restrictions LegalWhile associations cannot prevent homeowners from displaying the U.S. flag on their properties, they can still implement specific HOA flag rules.

For instance, the HOA may send a notice to homeowners who are not displaying their flags correctly.

According to the U.S. Flag Code:

  • You can only display the flag from sunrise to sunset unless the flag is illuminated at night.
  • You must take down the flag during rain, snow, or storms unless it is an all-weather flag.
  • The flag must not touch the ground or have anything beneath it.
  • The flag should not be displayed in a way that would make it damaged or soiled.
  • You cannot place letters, symbols, insignia, or designs on the flag.
  • Destroy all worn-out flags in a dignified way (i.e. burning).

HOA flag rules can also dictate when, where, or how you can display the flag on your property. In many communities, there are also homeowners association flagpole guidelines in place. For instance, the HOA may regulate the size and location of flagpoles on a homeowner’s property.

 

How Should the HOA Deal with Flag Displays?

The American flag — and all the values it represents — means a lot to many homeowners. As such, HOA flag restrictions can be a very contentious issue. It can lead to tension, fights, or even costly litigation. In order to maintain peace within the community, here are some helpful tips for dealing with flag displays.

 

1. Make Sure HOA Flag Rules Are in the Governing Documents

The association should only enforce flag rules that are stated in the governing documents. Otherwise, the HOA board has no authority to restrict the use or display of any type of flag. If you want to enforce certain flag rules, make sure to amend your governing documents first.

Given how important flags are to some homeowners, the association should also enforce the most reasonable restrictions it can. Do not make your homeowners’ lives harder with unreasonable restrictions. This way, the HOA can look after the interests of both the community at large and individual homeowners.

 

2. Check State and Local Laws

Apart from federal mandates like the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 and the U.S. Flag Code, some states have additional laws for displaying flags and installing flagpoles. For example, in states like Florida, Washington, and Colorado, the law states that flagpoles should be not more than 20 feet high, should not obstruct sightlines at intersections, and should not be installed within or upon an easement.

 

3. Establish Clear Guidelines for Installing Flagpoles

guidelines | can hoa prohibit flagsThe HOA should have clear guidelines on how homeowners can display their flags correctly. Homeowners should know the appropriate size and type for flags and what is considered a reasonable size and height for a flagpole.

Also, the HOA should inform homeowners on how to proceed with installing their flagpoles. For instance, they must first file an application with the architectural review committee. This is to ensure that flagpoles are not installed under water pipes or other important components and that the design does not clash with the overall aesthetics of the community.

 

4. Avoid Selective Enforcement of HOA Flag Rules

If the community allows other types of flags, make sure to enforce the rules fairly and uniformly. You cannot allow homeowners to display holiday flags and at the same time, send notices of removal to homeowners who display the rainbow flag. The latter may be considered as discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, which could lead to potential litigation.

 

What About HOA Political Flags and Banners?

Unlike the American flag, the HOA has the authority to restrict homeowners from displaying political signs, banners, or flags. Homeowners who want to display political materials will often cite the First Amendment. This prevents federal, state, and local governments from stifling one’s freedom of speech.

However, an association is not a government entity. The First Amendment does not influence HOA governance. Also, keep in mind that everyone who joins an HOA signs a contract. If the governing documents prohibit the display of political paraphernalia, homeowners must abide by these restrictions.

If the HOA wants to accommodate the political beliefs and affiliations of homeowners, the board can implement specific rules when it comes to displaying political signs. Here are some examples.

  1. Political signs can only be displayed 45 days prior to an election. They must be removed a week after the election.
  2. Political signs must remain respectful. They cannot contain any profanity or foul messages.
  3. Homeowners can only x number of signs in their property.
  4. Political signs must not create obstructions and other safety hazards.
  5. Political signs should be within the homeowner’s property limits.

As with other HOA restrictions, make sure that these rules are clearly outlined in the governing documents. The board should implement these rules consistently and uniformly to avoid problems with homeowners.

 

Harmoniously Working With and Around HOA Flag Restrictions

The HOA board has great power but they must exercise this power responsibly. They should ensure that the entire community abides by federal, state, and local laws, as well as the governing documents. When it comes to flags, HOAs must be able to find a harmonious balance with following the law, protecting the interests of the community, and providing homeowners with a means to express themselves.

 

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What Does An HOA Architectural Committee Do?

What is an architectural control committee? If you are planning to join a homeowners association, it’s important to understand the purpose of architectural control and a designated committee that ensures compliance with these standards. For an in-depth explanation, here’s everything you need to know about an HOA architectural committee.

HOA Architectural Committee: What Is Architectural Control?

Every homeowners association will have architectural standards outlined in its CC&Rs, bylaws, or governing documents. In HOAs with single-family homes, the purpose of architectural standards is to maintain the overall aesthetics of the community. For example, homeowners can only paint their home’s exterior in certain colors, or their fencing should be a certain, uniform height.

Meanwhile, in condominium associations, the purpose of architectural control is to maintain both the aesthetics and structural integrity of each unit. Condo owners may not be able to modify their interiors if the planned modification will alter the structural integrity of the unit. A community’s architectural standards may also impose certain types of tints and coverings for a condo unit’s windows.

 

HOA Architectural Committee Responsibilities: ARC vs ACC

An HOA architectural committee can go by many names including the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) and the Architectural Control Committee (ACC). Both ARC and ACC are tasked with maintaining the architectural standards of their community.

Here are their main responsibilities:

  • Review applications for home additions and/or modifications

The committee receives applications from homeowners for additions and/or modifications to their property. Apart from a written request, the HOA architectural committee may request additional documents such as plans for the proposed project, necessary building permits, materials to be used, and a proposed schedule for the project. The ARC or ACC will then review the application to see if it is consistent with the architectural guidelines of the community. They will pass the applications to the HOA board, who then makes the final decision.

  • Oversee changes to homeowners’ properties

If the board approves a homeowner’s request, the HOA architectural committee will then oversee the construction of the home addition/modification. The ARC or ACC will ensure that the project does not deviate from the architectural standards of the community.

  • Inspect community for violation of architectural standards

violation | ARC vs ACCAn HOA architectural committee also regularly inspects the homes within their community. Committee members determine whether homeowners are abiding by the HOA’s architectural standards. Those who do not comply with these standards may be written up or fined — depending on what is established in your governing documents.

  • Review architectural guidelines

The ARC or ACC is responsible for reviewing the association’s architectural guidelines. They can propose changes if certain architectural standards are outdated or they can propose new standards that are in line with the community’s aesthetics. However, the HOA board is still the one who decides whether to approve these changes or not.

  • Educate homeowners about architectural guidelines

In order to foster compliance, the HOA architectural committee educates homeowners about the community’s architectural guidelines. Sometimes, non-compliance with these standards is simply because homeowners did not know about them. It’s also important to educate new homeowners so that they are aware of the architectural guidelines from the start.

 

Who Makes Up the HOA Architectural Committee?

Architectural control is one of the responsibilities of the HOA board. However, because board members already have a lot on their plate, they can choose to form a separate architectural committee. Any homeowner can volunteer to join the ARC or ACC, but the board members should make it a point to choose those who already have expertise in architecture, design, construction, and other related fields. This is to ensure that your HOA architectural committee is qualified and objective.

HOAs should also note that ARC or ACC members are not building inspectors. It is not their responsibility to ensure that planned projects comply with local building codes and local laws. Their main responsibility is to protect the aesthetics of their community.

Despite having a separate architectural committee, the HOA board still makes the final decision when it comes to applications and other important matters. Although, in some cases, HOA architectural committees can operate independently from the board. Make sure to check governing documents, as well as state and federal laws, if this is feasible for your community.

 

HOA Architectural Committee Guidelines: What Are Architectural Guidelines?

Architectural standards or guidelines indicate which additions and/or modifications are allowed in your community. These guidelines also establish the proper process for making changes to homeowners’ properties. Since each HOA will have its own aesthetics, your community’s architectural guidelines may be different, as well. However, here are common architectural guidelines for HOA communities.

 

1. Architectural Standards

HOAs should establish architectural standards that are in line with their community’s aesthetics. Any changes made should be aesthetically pleasing and consistent with the overall appearance of the community. Architectural standards may include:

  • Exterior paint colors
  • Roof materials and finishes
  • Fencing construction and/or height
  • Window design, tint, and drapes
  • Landscaping design or installation
  • Balcony and patio flooring
  • Electrical and plumbing fixtures
  • Placement of satellite dishes, solar panels, and charging stations

2. Application and Approval Process

application | ARC vs ACCThe HOA architectural committee will evaluate each application to determine whether the proposed project complies with the community’s architectural standards. The committee should have specific criteria for evaluation to ensure a fair and uniform process for each application.

Make sure to check your governing documents for deadlines. Some communities have to make a decision on an application within a specific time frame.

HOA architectural committees should keep in mind federal, state, and local laws when approving or denying applications. For instance, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act, homeowners with disabilities should be afforded reasonable accommodations — even if these accommodations are not consistent with your aesthetic standards.

Meanwhile, the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act states that HOAs cannot prohibit homeowners from displaying the U.S. flag. Similarly, the Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule states that HOAs must allow homeowners to install antennas or satellite dishes on their property. However, in both cases, the HOA can impose restrictions on where they can be placed.

3. Appeals Process

Homeowners should be able to appeal to the committee or board’s decision. Your governing documents may also have a specific time frame for appeals, such as 15-30 days after an application has been denied. Homeowners should submit a written appeal and the board will then schedule the appeal during the next board meeting.

4. Penalties for Non-Compliance

HOAs should also have a standard procedure for residents who make changes to their homes without the approval of the architectural committee or the board. Homeowners who violate the community’s architectural standards may be required to attend a hearing. Depending on the results of the hearing, homeowners may be subjected to fines or other penalties.

 

What Is the Importance of Architectural Control in an HOA Community?

Architectural control can be a somewhat sensitive issue for homeowners. Some are not happy about being told what they can or cannot do to their own property. In these cases, it’s important to remind homeowners of the purpose of these architectural standards.

Having a consistent appearance, especially one that is aesthetically pleasing, is one of the best ways to maintain and protect the community’s property values. By keeping property values high, HOA boards are performing their fiduciary duty to the community. They must act in the best interests of the entire community. If homeowners did whatever they wanted to their property, they could affect the property values of their neighbors. And so, architectural control is a must for HOA communities.

This is also why architectural standards should be clearly outlined in your governing documents. If homeowners want to join your community, they have to sign a contract, which requires them to abide by the governing documents. If they do not comply, they will be subject to fines or penalties.

 

A Clear Case for Having an HOA Architectural Committee in Your Community

HOA boards are always strapped for time so by establishing an HOA architectural committee, they are still able to maintain the property values of their community. Meanwhile, as a new homeowner, it’s important to understand the purpose and benefits of having architectural guidelines.

Buying a home is a major investment so you want to protect its value as much as possible. By abiding by the community’s architectural standards and following the correct procedure for home modifications, you are contributing to your community’s success.

 

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11 Legal Rights Of Homeowners Who Live In HOA-Run Communities

Most, if not all, homeowners associations are legal entities. As such, both board members and homeowners are afforded legal rights — all of which should be clearly outlined in your community’s governing documents. If you need further guidance, here are the legal rights of homeowners who live in HOA-run communities.

What Are the Legal Rights of Homeowners?

What are the homeowners rights against homeowners associations? As an HOA board member, here are 15 legal rights you need to know:

1. Homeowners Have a Bundle of Legal Rights

Anyone who purchases property is afforded a bundle of rights. The legal rights of property owners include:

  • The Right of Possession: A person who holds the title of the property is the legal owner.
  • The Right of Control: A homeowner has the right to use their property as they please — as long as it is legal. In an HOA, though, homeowners must still abide by community rules and regulations.
  • The Right of Exclusion: A property owner can limit who enters their home — unless there is a warrant or court order. There are also easements for utility workers who need to access the property.
  • The Right of Enjoyment: A homeowner has the right to participate in any activity they deem pleasurable — as long as it is legal.
  • The Right of Disposition: A homeowner can transfer ownership of their property to another person. However, if there is a lien on the property, the new owner will have to pay it off.

2. Homeowners Have a Right to Change HOA Rules and Regulations

binder of rules | homeowners legal rightsIt is within homeowners’ legal rights to change the association’s rules and regulations. Homeowners can choose to take action if they deem certain rules as unfair, outdated, or discriminatory. The HOA board cannot stop them.

However, make sure to check the governing documents for the procedure for proposing new rules or amendments. For instance, a majority vote may be required in order to change rules or implement new ones. Also, board members should ensure that these new rules are still compliant with state and local laws.

3. Homeowners Can Question HOA Fees and Special Assessments

As members of the community, homeowners are required to pay assessment fees each month. But that doesn’t mean that they will just pay any amount that the HOA charges them. Homeowners have a right to question a sudden increase in monthly HOA fees or why the HOA is levying a special assessment. This can be a form of financial oversight and so that homeowners know where their money is being used.

Homeowners can take formal action, but they are still advised to continue paying their assessments. Keep in mind that the HOA board also has a right to place a lien on a delinquent homeowner’s property or even file for a foreclosure to collect unpaid assessments.

To prevent drastic actions from both the association and homeowner, the board must tread carefully when it comes to increasing HOA fees or levying special assessments. Depending on your governing documents, HOAs might need to give adequate notice to homeowners via certified mail. There may also be a limit on how much you can increase HOA fees each year.

Also, board members should properly communicate the reasons for an increase. They can provide documents to support these reasons, and reassure homeowners that this is for the benefit of the community.

4. Homeowners Have a Right to Access Financial Reports, HOA Documents

Board members cannot prohibit homeowners from requesting HOA documents including:

  • Financial Reports
  • Annual Budget Report
  • Reserves Summary
  • Vendor Contracts
  • Board Meeting Agendas and Minutes
  • HOA Membership Lists
  • HOA Tax Returns
  • Governing Documents
  • HOA Rule Changes or Amendments
  • Plans for Capital Improvement Projects

Homeowners have a right to inspect these documents to see how the board is managing the community’s finances and assets. Access to budgets, expenditures, transactions will allow homeowners to see how their money is being used.

In some cases, though, homeowners may first need to submit a written notice, as well as pay for copying and postage costs. HOA boards may refuse access to documents that are bound by attorney-client privilege and those with pending litigation.

5. Homeowners Have a Right to Disciplinary Hearings

A homeowner has a right to a hearing before the HOA takes disciplinary action, such as imposing fines or suspension of privileges. The board must send a written notice ahead of the hearing via first class mail. Homeowners also have the right to a fair hearing even if they have clearly violated the association’s rules.

6. Homeowners Can Sue Board Members

One can always use their homeowners rights against HOAs. This means that a homeowner can choose to sue a board member due to disputes or perceived wrongdoings such as exceeding the limits of their authority or making unfair decisions. It even means that they can sue board members for bad decisions.

In the case of the latter, board members can take comfort in certain things. For instance, the Business Judgement Rule will protect them from personal liability as long as their actions were in the best interest of the community. The association’s D&O insurance will also cover your legal expenses. However, to prevent costly legal expenses for both parties, the board can recommend negotiation and mediation instead.

7. Homeowners Have a Right to Display the U.S. Flag

display flag | homeowners legal rightsThe HOA cannot prevent homeowners from displaying the American flag — even if they cite architectural control reasons.

Homeowners are protected by the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 and this supersedes any rule that you may have in your governing documents. However, HOAs can impose restrictions such as the location and height of the flagpole. Residents may also need to file a request before installing the flagpole on their property.

8. Homeowners Can Display Political Signs*

Homeowners’ right to display political signs will depend on which state your HOA is located. States like Texas and Washington prohibit HOAs from imposing bans on political signs whereas, in states like Virginia and the District of Columbia, no such laws exist.

In most cases, though, HOAs can still impose some restrictions such as limiting the number and size of political signs, as well as how long homeowners can display them on their property.

9. Homeowners with Disabilities Have a Right to Reasonable Accommodations

According to the Fair Housing Act, homeowners with disabilities have a right to request reasonable accommodations. This can be in the form of a ramp so that homeowners who use wheelchairs can gain access to communal areas. Homeowners can also request for their service animal to accompany them even in pet-restricted areas within the community.

HOA boards have to meet these accommodations as long as there are no other viable alternatives, and as long as these do not pose any risk to the other homeowners. In certain situations, such as in the case of service animals, HOA boards can request homeowners for documentation to verify.

10. Homeowners Can Have Solar Installations and Satellite Dishes on Their Roof

Previously, associations banned homeowners from placing solar installations, antennas, and satellite dishes on their roofs. Boards reasoned that such devices affected the uniform exterior appearance of the community and as such, lowered property values.

With the passing of the FCC’s Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule, though, HOA boards can no longer restrict homeowners from doing so. Homeowners have a right to place solar panels, antennas, and satellite dishes on their roof (as long as the device is under a meter). However, boards may be able to place some restrictions such as the placement of these devices.

11. Homeowners Have a Right to Solar Drying

Many HOAs prohibit solar drying — or using a clothesline to dry clothes outside — because it looks unsightly and affects the uniform exterior appearance of the community. If your community is located in a state with a Right to Dry law, though, the board cannot ban solar drying in their community. These states include:

    • Arizona
    • California
    • Colorado
    • Florida
    • Hawaii
    • Illinois
    • Indiana
    • Louisiana
    • Maine
    • Maryland
    • Massachusetts
    • Nevada
    • New Mexico
    • North Carolina
    • Oregon
    • Texas
    • Utah
    • Vermont
    • Virginia
    • Wisconsin

 How to Handle the Legal Rights of Homeowners

Apart from these 11 legal rights of homeowners, there may be many more for HOA boards to consider. Though the actual number may seem daunting, HOA board members must always try to keep track of these legal rights. In order to properly handle the legal rights of homeowners, here are three simple but important reminders:

1. HOA board members must take time to read and fully understand the community’s governing documents (CC&Rs, bylaws, HOA rules, and regulations).

2. HOA board members should be updated on state and local laws. If there are any changes, you must amend governing documents as quickly as possible.

3. HOA disputes and misunderstandings can lead to expensive legal proceedings if not addressed in a timely manner. For the sake of both parties, HOA board members should take time to communicate with homeowners in a professional but cordial manner.

Why HOAs Need to Respect the Legal Rights of Homeowners

Respecting the legal rights of homeowners isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also one of the best ways to protect the wellbeing of your community. In the same way that HOA board members have protection from personal liability, homeowners also have legal rights as members of the community. If everyone is respectful of each other, you will be able to have a peaceful and thriving community.

 

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