Homeowners' Rights and Duties in an HOA
The communal aspect of living in an HOA is built on the harmonious relationship between homeowners and board members. Whether or not that foundation is rocky, unclear, or inconsistent can determine everyone living within an HOA if their experience is positive or negative. A vital piece of that foundation, and arguably its most important piece, is for homeowners to fully understand their rights within an HOA that the board must adhere to and the duties and responsibilities they must abide by in return.
It’s easiest to think of homeowners’ rights and duties under the scope of that type of give-and-take relationship but to keep in mind that the community itself thrives under the premise that both sides contribute to each other. By contributing towards the HOA through dues payments and adhering to the various rules and regulations set forth by the HOA, homeowners, in turn, have individual rights that the board must fully adhere to and respect. What remains the most important is that homeowners completely understand their rights and duties within their respective HOAs.
Below, we have provided both a comprehensive list of homeowners’ rights that are typically awarded to residents, as well as a thorough explanation of the various duties and responsibilities that HOAs demand of homeowners and that they must follow in return:
Homeowners’ HOA Rights
Understanding homeowners’ rights to the fullest extent mean understanding that they cover a wide range of HOA topics. Although some of the items below can feel like no-brainers, comprehending what these rights mean and can do for you as a homeowner can determine if a conflict were to arise, whether you will win a dispute with your HOA successfully. Homeowners need to be fully aware of when, if, and how an HOA could or might be violating their homeowners’ rights.
1. Property Rights:
One of the most important and arguably extensive sets of rights that homeowners possess revolves around their purchased property and that an HOA can or can’t prevent them from doing with that property. This is typically called, in most real estate circles, a bundle of rights.
The bundle of rights mostly includes items like:
- A right to possession of the property title
- Legal control of the property’s use (as long as it abides by HOA CC&R’s)
- The right to deny entry to any party without a warrant or legal document
- The request to enjoyment and fun on that property within the traditional confines
- The right to transfer ownership of that property to another person.
What remains extremely important about these items is what they represent to homeowners; an extensive display of property rights that allows them the freedom to develop and oversee that property to a significant degree without conflicting with the HOA’s rules and regulations.
What these property rights typically include as well are homeowners’ rights to display items such as the American flag or political signs on their property as well. Although HOAs may limit the duration political displays may be up, or how large the displays are (such as the size of an election sign), homeowners still possess the rights to display what they want on their property.
2. Document Access Rights
Understanding homeowners’ rights and responsibilities mean having access to the full amount of HOA documents that the HOA board is legally required to provide upon request. In other words, it’s within the homeowners’ rights to receive access to these documents when they need them. These documents can include financial and budgeting reports from past years, insurance policies for the HOA, vendor contracts, board meeting minutes and election information, and especially the HOA governing documents.
Homeowners need to realize that unless specified by the HOA that a past or current legal matter is surrounding a particular document or involving another homeowner’s personal or financial information, the HOA can’t legally prohibit access to HOA documents. Without access, and especially without access to the HOA governing documents, homeowners would be without the ability to even abide by the CC&R’s or other regulations the HOA had put in place to begin with.
3. HOA Fees and Special Assessments
Although this is a much trickier set of rights, understanding HOA fees, special assessments that the board can enact, and what will or won’t mean for homeowners in terms of payments is crucial. In most cases, homeowners will make dues payments to the board and be liable to contribute to any special assessments the board puts forth if it needs to raise money to repair something within the HOA it didn’t previously have the funds for. What homeowners need to be aware of is their right to question and analyze all requests for payment handed down by their board, with the right to appeal if they find inconsistencies.
An example of this would be if a particular HOA billed its homeowners to contribute to a special assessment to fix the clubhouse. Still, homeowners believed the board was in violation for not giving proper notice for the billing. In this case, it would be within the homeowners’ rights to request that the board provide more information regarding the payments needed or even the right to dispute it to the board during a future meeting or hearing.
4. Changing HOA Rules and Regulations
Although HOA governing documents outline a wide range of methods in which the board carries out the HOA’s CC&R’s, the residents in an HOA can also amend the rules and regulations, and it’s within homeowners’ rights to submit a change in the documents if they see fit. Homeowners can seek to amend or remove any rule or regulation that results in discriminatory or unfair treatment to residents and have the right to argue in favor of those changes in front of the board.
However, although homeowners have these rights, it’s important to remember that if you are a homeowner looking to pursue this route, the proper channels for which a resident must submit for a supplement to the rules outlined in the governing documents must be followed as well. This also does not mean the regulations in question will be guaranteed to change, as the amendment would still have to pass the normal voting process outlined in the governing documents.
5. Suing Board Members
Although an uncommon occurrence, homeowners possess the right to sue an HOA board member if they believe that they have violated a law or have behaved unethically. This action is usually reserved when the homeowner thinks a board member’s actions directly harmed them. Although these situations are typically handled in some form of mediation rather than a court, a homeowner needs to understand that they can sue if an issue of this magnitude were to arise nevertheless.
6. Disciplinary Hearings
Before the HOA board can rule in favor of condemnatory action upon a resident, homeowners need to understand that they do have the ability to dispute such charges in an HOA board disciplinary hearing. A form of due process, if you will, this right allows homeowners the full extent of the law, as it pertains to HOAs, to defend themselves in such cases as delinquency or CC&R violations.
7. Satellite Dishes and Solar Panels
Yes, this might seem like an obscure subject to mention. Still, roof appendages have historically been an issue that, until the FCC passed the Over-The-Air Reception Devices Rule, made it hard for homeowners to install items like satellite dishes and solar panels to their roofs without violating the HOA rules. Now, however, homeowners can rest assured of legal precedent that does allow them the freedom to install such items onto their property’s roof without ramifications from the HOA, barring that devices are permitted within the state.
Homeowners’ HOA Duties
Accompanied with the extensive set of rights that homeowners receive upon joining an HOA, homeowners need to remember that those rights come from duties and responsibilities towards the HOA. Belonging to an HOA means that although you might be protected from your HOA, your HOA must also ask you to adhere to specific guidelines to protect itself.
The most important duties that homeowners must adhere to are an HOA’s Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions; the complete set of rules and regulations regarding just about everything of importance within the HOA. These issues might revolve around individual properties, common areas, dues payments, and more. Abiding by these rules, while the HOA, in turn, abides by the law to not violate your rights as a property owner, is of the utmost importance, and breaking the CC&R’s in an HOA can spell trouble for non-compliant homeowners.
2. Financial Commitments
As stated before, dues payments and special assessments are significant components of living within an HOA. When it comes time for homeowners to make those payments, it’s their responsibility to pay those dues on time and in their full amount. If not, homeowners can be subject to all kinds of penalties, including fines, delinquency notices, and liens on their house.
3. The Sacrifice of the Community Experience
Although a much broader idea, part of the duties involved in being a homeowner within an HOA is making these financial sacrifices and regulatory commitments to better the community itself, part of the HOA standard is that all residents equally contribute so that the experience of all who live within the association prosper. With that, violating the other duties as mentioned above violates this principle, and while this principle isn’t as tangible as the others, breaking it can be just as costly.