Members of a homeowners association are bound by agreements known as HOA covenants. As such, before you buy a home in an HOA community, it is imperative to familiarize yourself with the covenants that you must follow. This will prevent any future conflicts between you and the HOA.
In this article:
What Are HOA Covenants? CC&R Meaning and More
What are CC&Rs? CC&Rs refer to a planned community’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions. This is a legal document that defines the guidelines homeowners must adhere to in the neighborhood. They outline the rights and obligations of homeowners to the association and vice versa. In essence, these are the rules of your community.
Are neighborhood covenants legally binding? In most cases, once you buy a home within an HOA, you automatically become a member. That means you must start to abide by the covenants laid out within the association’s CC&Rs, which are legally binding and enforceable.
What Is the Purpose of HOA Covenants?
Homeowners associations serve a specific function — to govern and regulate the community with the ultimate goal of protecting or improving property values. One way HOAs do this is through creating and enforcing covenants.
Property use and appearance covenants, for instance, primarily focus on maintaining curb appeal. When curb appeal drops, so do property values. HOA covenants also protect homeowners’ rights to quiet enjoyment of their property. Beyond that, covenants allow associations to navigate and resolve disputes in a standard format.
Common Restrictive Covenants Examples
Restrictive covenants limit the things you can do with your property. These types of HOA covenants can also require you to perform specific tasks as a homeowner and member of the community. Common HOA CC&R examples include the following:
- Property maintenance. The HOA may require you to maintain your lawn or landscaping as well as apply a fresh coat of paint to the outside of your home every once in a while. Many associations, though, provide such services as part of HOA dues.
- Exterior appearance. HOAs commonly place limitations on the appearance of your home’s exterior. This includes what color paint you can use and whether you can hang towels on your balcony. Some HOAs might restrict you from hanging your clothes out to dry, but there are states that protect your right to dry as well.
- Property alterations and additions. Many associations place restrictions on what you can change or add to the exterior of your property. Exterior renovations or constructions are usually subject to the evaluation of the Architectural Review Committee and the approval of the HOA board.
- Pet restrictions. Some HOA covenants don’t allow specific pet types or breeds and even place a limit on the number of pets you can have.
- Vehicle restrictions. There are associations that have restrictive covenants concerning where you can park your vehicles, what type of vehicles you can leave parked in your driveway, and whether guests can park overnight.
HOA CC&Rs vs HOA Bylaws
Homeowners associations follow a set of documents known collectively as the governing documents. Two of these documents are the CC&Rs and the bylaws. But, what is the difference between HOA bylaws and covenants?
Simply put, an association’s bylaws dictate how the HOA should operate. Information typically found in HOA bylaws includes the duties of each board member, how often to hold meetings, how these meetings should go, and the voting rights of the community’s members.
On the other hand, HOA covenants dictate what the association and its members must and must not do. These covenants usually cover things like dues obligations, insurance requirements, maintenance responsibilities, dispute resolution, covenant enforcement, and property-use restrictions.
How to Find CC&Rs for a Property
Homeowners associations must also record their CC&Rs with the county recorder’s office in the area. When you first purchase a home, you will typically receive a copy of the association’s CC&Rs as part of the HOA disclosure documents. This way, you can read about the covenants and restrictions of the community before finalizing the deal and moving into your new home.
If you already live in an HOA community and want to look at your CC&Rs, there are a few ways you can do it. Associations must make these documents freely available to homeowners. Some HOAs accomplish this by allowing homeowners to download a copy through the HOA website. If you don’t have an HOA website, you can ask your board for a copy of the CC&Rs. You may need to go through a formal process, though, and fill out some forms.
Amending Homeowners Association CC&Rs
Can an HOA change covenants? The short answer is yes. Homeowners associations do generally have the power to amend covenants, though the process usually takes a lot of time and effort.
The board will first receive a proposal of the amendment that should consist of the details of the change. A meeting will typically follow, allowing board members to discuss the matter and homeowners to provide their feedback. Then, depending on state laws and the governing documents, a vote will take place. All homeowners, including board members, normally participate in this vote.
Associations will usually need a majority vote to pass the proposed amendment. The exact specifications of this majority can vary according to the state and the association. Most associations require approval from two-thirds or three-quarters of the membership, though.
Should the amendment pass, the association must then record the changes with the county recorder’s office. All that is left to do after that is for the HOA board to send a notice of the amendment so that all homeowners are aware of the change.
Enforcing Homeowner Association Covenants
Can HOA covenants be enforced? Homeowners associations generally do have the authority to enforce covenants, provided they were enacted correctly and don’t conflict with the law.
A covenant committee usually oversees the enforcement of HOA covenants. This committee monitors compliance and reports violations within the community as well as recommends corrective actions to the board. In addition, the covenants committee also reviews the existing rules of the community to see if any of them need updating. After all, covenants can become outdated over time.
When you violate the CC&Rs, a number of consequences may follow including but not limited to:
- Receiving a warning letter from the HOA;
- Being charged a monetary penalty or fine;
- Having your privileges suspended until the violation is remedied;
- Being sued by the HOA;
- Having a lien attached to your property; and/or
Do Covenants Expire?
How long do covenants last? Many HOA covenants expire after a period of time, usually between 25 to 30 years. When covenants expire, associations may choose to reinstate them through a majority vote from the membership. This is known as Covenant Revitalization. Through this process, the HOA can restore an expired covenant and enforce it as if it had not lapsed at all.
Of course, associations also have the option of choosing to let an expired covenant remain expired. This usually happens when the covenant has become antiquated and is no longer relevant to the current situation of the HOA. When a covenant expires, it becomes unenforceable.
A Step in the Right Direction
Understanding HOA covenants can seem like a challenge, especially to homeowners who have no prior experience in dealing with them. But, it is a necessary step if you want to live peacefully in an HOA community. Covenants have a clear purpose, and once you know what this purpose is, you can better appreciate them.
Plenty of homeowners associations seek help from professional management companies. If you want to hire an HOA management company as well, use our online directory to start your search.
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