Do HOA Rules Override State Laws And City Ordinances?

Do HOA rules override state law and city ordinances? This is a question that many homeowners and board members ask. Living in an HOA community means having to abide by certain rules. However, these rules can sometimes conflict with the laws in the state, county, or city. When that happens, which takes precedence? Find out below.

Browse By Category

Sign up for Our Newsletter

Are you an HOA Board Member?

Do HOA rules override state law and city ordinances? This is a question that many homeowners and board members ask. Living in an HOA community means having to abide by certain rules. However, these rules can sometimes conflict with the laws in the state, county, or city. When that happens, which takes precedence? Find out below.


Can HOA Rules Override State Law?

Anyone who has ever lived in an HOA-managed community knows that specific rules are in place. While some residents find these rules troublesome, they serve an important purpose. Rules in an HOA help maintain order and consistency within the community, thereby preserving property values and attracting potential buyers.

Rules can vary depending on the association. That said, some of the most common ones regulate architectural standards, landscaping, noise, pets, rentals, property use, parking, and maintenance. An owner may sometimes find that a rule conflicts with an existing law or ordinance. When that happens, which one takes precedence?

HOA rules cannot override state law. In an HOA, a rule that tries to override a state or local law is considered void and unenforceable. This is because HOAs can’t compel their members to violate the law.

Both community managers and board members should familiarize themselves with state laws. In doing so, they can identify which rules potentially contradict the laws in their state and avoid legal trouble. It is imperative to minimize liability, and such situations are magnets for it.


Hierarchy of HOA DocumentsUnderstanding the Hierarchy of HOA Documents

State laws, local ordinances, HOA bylaws, and operating rules — all of it can be a source of confusion, especially for the uninitiated. Learning the hierarchy of an association’s governing documents is essential in remaining compliant and navigating the complexities of the law.

Here is the hierarchy of precedence when it comes to HOA documents.


1. Federal, State, and Local Laws

Federal, state, and local laws or ordinances precede everything else. That means an HOA can’t enact rules that conflict with these laws or ordinances. If a rule conflicts with a law, the law must be followed.


2. Community Plat or Map

The community plat or recorded map is only second to federal, state, and local laws. This refers to the community’s development plan, a document registered with the county recorder’s office.

The community plat or map outlines the entire neighborhood. It establishes the location of lots, common areas, and amenities and lays down maintenance responsibilities. Other things one may find on the plat include vehicle access, parking spaces, trash enclosure requirements, landscaping restrictions, and areas for future development.


3. The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs)

The CC&Rs specify the rights and responsibilities of homeowners and the HOA through its board. It can include maintenance responsibilities, dues obligations, enforcement authorities, violation processes, and dispute resolution procedures.


4. Articles of Incorporation

In fourth place comes the association’s articles of incorporation. These documents contain the basic information of the HOA, including its name, address, corporate status, and function. When creating the HOA, the association or developer files these documents with the local government.


5. Bylaws

The bylaws of an HOA outline the operations of the association. In simple terms, they define how to run the association. Specific provisions include election information, board member terms and qualifications, meeting requirements, and voting rights. Considering its placement on the hierarchy, when it comes to HOA bylaws vs state law, the latter takes precedence.


6. Rules and Regulations

Finally, the HOA’s rules and regulations take the final spot on the hierarchy. The operating rules serve to expound on the CC&Rs of the association. As such, they tend to be more specific.


Does State Law Supersede HOA Rules?

There seems to be some confusion regarding the role HOA rules play. While HOA rules help keep a community in order, they do not reign supreme. Do state laws override HOA rules?

Yes, state laws generally come first before HOA rules. Federal and state laws take precedence over all other association documents, including the CC&Rs and the operating rules. For instance, in California, Civil Code Section 4715 states that HOAs can’t prohibit owners from keeping at least one pet. As such, if an HOA in California has a no-pets policy, it is effectively unenforceable.

Remember, though, that some federal or state laws are conditional. This means they may say one thing but give HOAs the authority to say otherwise.

Additionally, just because state laws permit something doesn’t automatically mean that HOAs must permit it. For example, state laws may allow homeowners to rent out their homes. However, an HOA generally still can restrict rentals unless state laws explicitly forbid HOAs from doing so.


Do HOA Rules Override City Ordinances?

Do HOA Rules Override City Ordinances?As with state laws, HOA rules do not override city ordinances. Associations must follow the hierarchy set forth above, and city or local ordinances take precedence over the CC&Rs and rules of an HOA. An association cannot compel residents to follow a rule that conflicts with local or city laws.

That said, there may be circumstances wherein city ordinances don’t specifically talk about an issue or wherein the ordinances are a bit more broad than HOA rules. In such cases, residents should follow HOA rules.

For example, a city law may require property owners to maintain their lawns and trim obstructing vegetation. In this case, HOA rules can’t override the law by telling residents they don’t have to maintain their lawns or trim obstructing vegetation. However, they can take the city law further and enact stricter requirements, such as mowing their lawns every X number of weeks or imposing a fine for noncompliance.


What HOAs Can and Can’t Do

Given the complexities of the law and HOA rules, homeowners may understandably feel lost. To clarify further, here are what an HOA generally can and can’t do.

What an HOA can do:

  • Enact rules that residents must follow. These rules must align with federal, state, and local laws, as well as with the rest of the HOA’s governing documents.
  • Enforce rules and take disciplinary action against residents who violate these rules.
  • File a lien and initiate foreclosure on delinquent homes, i.e., when homeowners default on their dues. In some states, HOAs can even place a lien and foreclose on unpaid fines from violations.

What an HOA can’t do:

  • Infringe on the rights of citizens. For instance, Americans have a right to display the U.S. flag, and HOAs can’t prohibit residents from doing so. However, HOAs can generally limit the size and placement of the flag.
  • Enforce rules that contradict the law.


Does State Law Override HOA Rules? Answered!

In summary, there is no case where HOA rules override state law. Considering the hierarchy, federal, state, and local laws always take precedence over an association’s rules. Board members should have a solid grasp of these laws. In doing so, they can protect the HOA and mitigate the risk of liability.

If your HOA board isn’t prepared to interpret laws and documents, an HOA management company may be just what you need. Start looking for the best one in your area using our online directory!



Sign up for Our Monthly Newsletter

Sign up below for monthly updates on all HOA Resource

Are you an HOA Board Member?
company logo
company logo
company logo
company logo
company logo
company logo
company logo
company logo