Homeowner Associations can be valuable assets to any residential community. The HOA sets, typically beneficial, standards that can help maintain the safety, curb appeal and overall quality of life in your community. If you moved into a residence where there is an HOA, chances are the rules that were in place helped with your overall initial impression of your property and neighborhood. But having an HOA isn't always a good thing, and disputes with any Homeowner Association need to be handled with care.
HOA Rules and Where to Find them
Typically, you will be able to find your HOA rules in something called a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R's), that you should have been given before you bought your property. Reviewing the CC&R's is an important part of your property transaction. Purchasing a property that is subject to an HOA without having an opportunity to review the CC&R's is a bit like playing a board game with someone without knowing any of the rules. Chances are, you're going to lose.
After you review your HOA rules, you need to maintain compliance with them. HOA rules can cover a variety of topics, from lawn care and sidewalk maintenance, to holiday decorations or permitted times for loud music or outdoors gatherings. Many of the items covered in an HOA are common sense, good-neighbor, type of rules, but you or your real estate attorney should review the CC&R's carefully before you purchase a home to be sure there's no particularly troublesome clauses or rules that could impact the way you planned to use your new property.
How Should You Approach a Dispute with your HOA?
If you have received notice that you are in violation of your HOA rules or have received a warning or any other action from your Homeowners Association, any response must be handled with professionalism and care. A knowledgeable attorney may be an asset in any HOA dispute. Unless the HOA dispute is involved in the sale of your home, at the end of any negotiations or disputes with your Homeowners' Association you will still be living in the same community and the same property as you did previously. Overly aggressive tactics or unprofessional behavior could make for poor relationships with your neighbors, even if you do win your dispute. At the same time, if the HOA is negatively impacting your life or taking a wrongful action you should be able to protect your rights as a homeowner. Striking a balance between protecting your legal rights and creating undue hostility is a key skill in any Homeowners' Association dispute.