HOAs are a good idea on paper, but if you’re part of one, you probably know that they don’t always work as intended. They can be overly restrictive and don’t always serve the interests of homeowners. Many Americans have moved into a neighborhood with an HOA, a common source of frustration. In addition, HOAs fail when they try to enforce unenforceable rules due to state law or federal regulations. If you find yourself in this situation and want to fight back against unenforceable HOA rules, here are some tips on what to do:
Find Out Which HOA Policy You Are Facing
The first step to fighting back against the unenforceable HOA rules is to find out which policy you are facing. There are many sources for HOA rules, and you will need to check them all.
Look for the rule in the HOA bylaws. The bylaws are basically like a constitution for your community. They define what powers the association has, what its members can expect from it, and how they can amend these over time. You should be able to find these documents online or at your local government office.
Check out some other documents related directly to governing boards. For example, you can look for minutes from meetings held by council members who run HOAs, or any policies made public by them. These may also be available online through official channels such as websites. These official channels are set up specifically aiming to help residents understand their rights when dealing with HOAs. Even emails sent between board members could provide clues about what might have happened while crafting certain rules or policies. Try doing a search using keywords relevant to this type of correspondence.
Be Aware That the HOA Rule May Not Be in the Books
You can also be aware that some rules may not be in the books. If a homeowner finds a rule to be unfair or unenforceable, there is no requirement for them to take steps to change it. The homeowner could choose not to follow that rule, rendering it ineffective. It’s worth pointing out that this tactic cannot work indefinitely without repercussions. It’s because every board conducts annual reviews of their HOA documents and could decide whether or not some of the rules need updating or changes. Only a few records are mandatory for HOAs to keep permanently and a few to maintain for up to a limited period. For example, in Texas, Section 209.005(m) of the Texas Property Code makes it mandatory for HOAs to keep the following records permanently:
- Articles of incorporation
- Restrictive covenants and any alterations to these documents.
For other records, there is a minimum period retention policy that varies from 4 to 7 years, depending on the document.
Those rules where part of their enforcement depends on someone else, like homeowners associations, are more difficult to fight because they are harder to control directly. However, if you find yourself in one of these situations, there are still ways you can fight back against an unjust rule. It depends on how serious your situation is about enforcement and consequences.
Check Your State Laws and Regulations for Any Reference to the Rule
You should always check state laws and regulations for any reference to the rule. If you find that the rule is covered by a law that makes it unenforceable, then you can ask your HOA board to follow the law.
If you don’t find any laws or regulations relevant to your issue, check local laws and regulations. If there are no local laws or ordinances on your HOA rules, then they may be enforceable.
You can also check local covenants, bylaws, zoning laws, building codes, health and safety laws, etc. These may give more information about whether or not an HOA rule is enforceable in your area.
Gather Evidence and Organize Your Case
Sometimes, gathering evidence is as easy as checking your mailbox or looking in the trash. For example, if you see an HOA delivered to you via US mail, keep it. You might also find important documents in your records, such as financial statements, meeting minutes, and correspondence with the HOA board members.
Look for additional information online by searching for “association rules of your town” and similar phrases on Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Also, look for complaints about the HOA on review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List. If there are many of them from people who live near you, this may be a good sign that something is wrong with their enforcement methods.
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Member of the Association
As a member of an HOA, you owe it to yourself and your neighbors to understand the organization’s rules. Don’t let them take advantage of you. Instead, arm yourself with knowledge and protect your rights as a homeowner. For example, section 720.304 of statutes in the state of Florida gives the right to the members of the HOA to gather peacefully. Also, the section gives the right to its member to construct a ramp to access in case of medical necessity. Knowing your right will help you overcome certain contradictory situations that you might think are enforceable rules of HOA.
You must know your rights and responsibilities as a member of this association. The HOA rules are not legally binding; they are simply guidelines for living within the community. They do not have any legal authority over you or anyone else in your neighborhood. It’s better not to start thinking that these rules apply in America, where all men and women are equal under the law.
Know Every Aspect of Local Real Estate Laws, Covenants, and Bylaws
As mentioned earlier, you should know every aspect of local real estate laws, covenants, and bylaws. Local laws are crucial to understanding because they determine how far your HOA can go with its rules. The second most important thing is knowing what your HOA rules say about things like paint colors and window treatments.
HOA rules are enforced differently from city to city and state to state, but in general, there are three types:
- Covenants: These are unchangeable regulations that apply exclusively to a particular property or community. For example, no pets are allowed. Homeowners can also modify these through an amendment process as long as everyone agrees on them.
- ByLaws: These are changes made by the board of directors which apply throughout an entire community and cannot be changed without another vote or meeting of all members. For example, no parking on the lawn.
- Restrictions: include prohibitions against certain activities within defined areas within a development, such as using gas-powered leaf blowers after 6 pm.
Look for Loopholes and Ways to Get Around the Rules in Legal Terms
If you’re having trouble with an HOA rule, look for loopholes and ways to get around the rules in legal terms. You might not be able to break the law outright, but there are often several ways to achieve the same result by taking advantage of special circumstances.
If a member violates the rules, the HOA’s governing documents will define its authority and the scope of actions it can take against that member. Be aware that many seemingly unenforceable HOA rules are not written down anywhere.
It’s Better to Keep Yourself Informed on Laws and HOA Rules
The necessary step to fighting back against unenforceable HOA rules is to keep you informed on laws and HOA rules. It is essential to know your rights and the laws in your area. Not all HOA rules are legally unenforceable, but this does not mean that you should accept them. You can fight against unreasonable HOA rules and win by keeping yourself informed.