Are HOA Bylaws Legally Enforceable?

If you live in a neighborhood or condo with a homeowners association, you may wonder if HOA law is actually enforceable. In short-answer form, laws and rules made by the association are enforceable. In most cases, people enter the HOA contract agreement with the sense they will gain the added security of a stable or increasing property value because of the fact that they live in an HOA. However, most come to find they have gotten more than they bargained for.

What an HOA can Control

A homeowners association is often granted more power over property than most initially suspect, which can cause quite a bit of disdain between property owners and often corrupt or dysfunctional association boards.

  • The homeowner enters the agreement with the HOA under the assumption that the contract is the contract and the laws are the laws and that's final.
  • However, the list of laws and bylaws can be altered by the board as they choose, adding their own addendums or altering the original covenant to "enhance" the association's standards.
  • HOA law often enables the board of directors to control and/or regulate as many facets of each property within the covenant as they deem worthy of regulating, including the outer appearance of the house itself.
  • Most prescribe a range of permissible color palettes for both exterior paint and trim work, stipulate whether or not having shutters is either permissible or mandated, and control the quantity and type of plants and/or flowers that may or may not be used in landscaping the property
  • Other regulations can govern every aspect of how your home looks, from the height of the garage to how often and at what time a homeowner can have his or her garage open.
  • Non-compliance of any one of the board's implemented laws or bylaws can result in a fine, and continued non-compliance can lead to serious consequences

How Can the HOA Enforce Laws?

Most HOAs respond to an issue of non-compliance with an initial warning, then a citation or monetary fining. They don't typically send police to the homeowner's door, because the board does their own policing. If you allow the fine to go unpaid, the HOA will add penalty charges to the monthly HOA dues the homeowner agreed to in the contract. After a designated amount of time passes, the HOA can apply these penalties and fines to the homeowner's mortgage, and even throw the homeowner into foreclosure proceedings. If the lender doesn't subscribe to the HOA contract the homeowner entered into, the association can apply the fees to the homeowner's property taxes, rendering the same state of default onto the property.

Getting Help

Attempting to negate the actions taken by the Homeowners Association often ends in the homeowner losing the decision and having the court and attorney costs for both themselves and the association assessed on top of the original charges, costing the homeowner thousands of dollars. What's the reason for this being the rule and not the exception: when it comes down to it, there was a legal and binding contract signed. This means if you do want to negotiate with the HOA, your best bet is to get your lawyer involved as early in the process as possible and to explore all of your options for dealing with the HOA.

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