HOA Rules and Your Legal Rights

HOA rules meeting

HOA Rules and Your Legal Rights

Being part of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) or Condo Owner’s Association (COA) brings advantages. For some, it also brings headaches. When you experience a dispute with your HOA or with a neighbor, you might feel at the mercy of HOA rules. However, you are not powerless. So learn and understand your legal rights as an HOA member. That way, your experience will go more smoothly and you will avoid being taken advantage of.


Basic Resident Rights

First, know your basic legal rights. As a homeowner, you may:

  • Ask any question about the HOA rules and regulations and expect an answer.
  • Access any HOA records upon request, within a reasonable time frame.
  • Receive timely notice of any action the HOA plans to take against you.
  • Receive treatment consistent with that of other members of your HOA.
  • Vote in elections.
  • Receive an advance explanation if you are deemed ineligible to vote.
  • Know and understand how your fees are being used and to question improper use.


Order of Precedence

You HOA might come across as a tyrannical government at times, but they are not above the law. Just as federal law wins out when it conflicts with state law, order of precedence applies here. Local laws and county property maps supersede HOA documents.

Understand priority within the HOA’s governing documents, too. First priority goes to the CC&R (covenants, conditions, and restrictions) declaration. Other documents, from highest priority to lowest, are: supplementary declarations, articles of incorporation or corporate charter, bylaws, rules, and regulations, and general resolutions.

You should read all of these documents before moving into a home in an HOA community. Refer to them when a question arises.


Changing the Rules

When you buy a home in a community with an HOA, you agree to abide by their rules. However, you play a role in changing them when necessary. Review your CC&Rs to learn how a homeowner can propose an amendment. After you go through the required steps, an amendment may be proposed and voted on.

If you believe that any of the HOA’s regulations violate local ordinances or state law, contact an attorney.


State-by-State Variations

Different states have different laws that advise how HOAs and COAs operate.

The website HOA-USA advises, “Because of the wide variance in state laws, constant changes and possible conflicts in governing documents or statutes, it is strongly recommended that association boards and members seek legal counsel and especially with firms that have expertise or strong practice experience in the area of Common Interest Community law.”

In Ohio, Title 53, Chapters 5311 and 5312 govern COA and HOA activities, respectively. The Ohio Fire Code also applies in such matters as whether you can use a grill on a deck.


Potential Disciplinary Action

Some actions they may take include fines, forced compliance, or a lien against your home. There is a five-year statute of limitations on a lien. However, within that five years, an HOA could file a lawsuit to begin foreclosure. If your HOA or COA files a foreclosure suit, you should retain an attorney right away.

Under Ohio law, HOAs must record their bylaws with the County Recorder’s office before they can take action against a homeowner. The Ohio Planned Community Law implemented this change in September 2010. You can read the whole thing here.

An HOA must remain in good standing with the Secretary of State, filing an annual report and following other guidelines. Check the website of your state’s Secretary of State to check whether your HOA is in good standing.


When the HOA Doesn’t Do Its Job

If you have a concern, you are entitled to inform the Board of Directors via phone call, email, or in person at a board meeting. Then if they don’t respond, present your concern again in writing and keep a copy. Finally, here’s what to do if your HOA or COA simply neglects its job.

If you need to involve a lawyer, use a firm with experience working with HOAs and COAs. With the right knowledge, you can live in harmony with your community and protect your rights.

PHOTO: FEMA / Public Domain

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