What are HOA Covenants?

    Home buyers often have questions about the homeowners’ association, or HOA, if their new neighborhood has one. If there is an HOA, there are covenants, and what does that mean for individual owners?

    If you purchase a home in a planned, covenanted community, you will probably be required to join the homeowners’ association (HOA). HOA’s have rules, which are described in a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The CC&Rs are the rules of the neighborhood and outline the limitations and requirements about what homeowners can do with and on their property. The purpose of the CC&Rs is to protect, preserve, and enhance the property values of the community. Most people agree that the rules make good sense and seem acceptable. A good example might be that a covenant may require that homeowners keep their yards well-kept, mown, and free of weeds and debris.

    There may be some rules, however, that a homeowner finds simply unreasonable. The HOA covenants may require that cars be parked in the garage, even though the owner was planning to store all his camping gear in the garage and leave the car in the driveway. An owner may want to fence the yard to provide privacy or let the family’s dogs run free, but the CC&Rs may state that no fences are allowed or that they must be of a particular style and height. Even more surprising to some buyers is the possibility that certain breeds and sizes of dogs may be prohibited by the covenants. The CC&Rs may dictate certain house colors as well, so planning is required before beginning some exterior projects.

    PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS

    When a buyer closes escrow on a home in a planned community, one of the papers to be signed will be an agreement that the CC&Rs have been read and will be followed. The HOA has a responsibility to enforce the CC&Rs, and penalties for violations may include fines, forced compliance, or a lawsuit filed by the HOA against the offending homeowner. It’s important to read the CC&Rs prior to purchasing to avoid future problems. As difficult as it may be to imagine, an HOA with a covenant that restricts the size or breed of a pet can bring suit to force a family to give up their large dog or move. Or, the HOA can require that you repaint your freshly-updated home if it doesn’t meet covenanted guidelines.

    HOA DUES + ASSESSMENTS

    Covenanted communities require that homeowners pay monthly or annual dues and occasional assessments to the HOA. The CC&Rs outline the types of dues, assessments, and non-payment penalties, which may include late charges and interest. Failure to pay dues and assessments on time may result in a lien on the home, which could eventually lead to a foreclosure.

    HOA covenants should not be overlooked when embarking on a new home search. Become familiar with the CC&Rs of the neighborhood in which you are interested in buying. Remember that the covenants are intended to protect your investment in your new home.

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