When you rent a townhouse, condominium, or a single-family home in a neighborhood of houses that has been deemed a formal community or subdivision, you may be subject to following the rules and regulations of a Homeowners Association (HOA). The HOA’s presumed function is to keep the quality of the community high to keep the owners’ property values in line with the prevailing rates.
Think of the HOA as a landlord. It’s a legal body comprised of homeowners that live there, and its primary function is to manage and maintain the areas a community shares, such as lawns, clubhouses, fitness centers, elevators, landscaping, swimming pools, parking garages, roofing, the exteriors of buildings, security gates, sidewalks, and tennis courts.
However, much like a landlord, it also creates and enforces regulations the group feels are in the best interests of all members of the community. The HOA members and officers are voted on by the residents on a regular basis.
HOA Renter Responsibilities
The owner of your rental property is bound by the statutes put forth by the HOA. As a renter, you are also responsible by extension to follow the guidelines and rules. There are annual dues paid to the HOA by the homeowners in the community to cover the costs of maintenance. The owner of your property may personally pay them or pass on the cost to renters as part of the monthly rental fee. If this financial commitment is not clearly spelled out in your lease, you are not legally bound to pay it until a new lease is legally altered and signed by you and your landlord.
Common HOA Rules, Regulations, and CC&Rs
Many of the HOA rules and regulations are very helpful to new homeowners and renters. They typically include information on common issues, such as where your outdoor trashcans should be stored and the recycling guidelines and schedule of the sanitation company that serves the area. These regulations also spell out how many pets are permitted for each resident, along with how tall fences can be to conform with the neighborhood aesthetics. These tenets are frequently revised as the needs and wants of the community change.
The CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) are quite a different matter. This list of directives covers issues that are personal decisions for homeowners not required to join an HOA. Rules that HOA’s regularly enforce are if you can dry laundry on a clothesline in your backyard, what color you can paint your front door, whether you can install a satellite dish on the roof of your house, how big and what breed of pets you can own, and more. However, if you have been an apartment renter for many years, these rules should be easy to follow.
Penalties For Breaking The Rules
Because you don’t own the rental property, HOA will go after your landlord if you don’t comply with the rules, regulations, or CC&Rs. If you want to stay in good standing with your landlord, make sure you walk the line.
To make that easier for renters, many HOAs stipulate that the owners of homes must provide renters with all official documents that govern the property, including rules, regulations, and CC&Rs, prior to signing the leases.
Additionally, if you want an exception made to a rule, you must go through the landlord instead of directly approaching the HOA.
If a renter breaks a rule, the HOA cannot retaliate against them. Instead, it must inform the landlord of the breach, and it’s the landlord’s job to remedy the circumstances. If there is a monetary penalty infringement, it will be charged to the landlord, not the tenant, but the landlord can recover the amount from the tenant if the lease specifies it. If a renter persists with violations, the HOA has the right to take legal action against the landlord. Furthermore, if a tenant breaks a law defined by the government, the HOA is free to contact the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
It may seem like HOAs hold all the cards, but their power is limited by state, local, and federal landlord-tenant laws. They are also bound by the statutes of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion.
HOA-controlled properties aren’t for everyone, including many homeowners as well as renters. If you consider yourself a free thinker who should be able to dry your bed sheets in the fresh air without infringing on the quality of living in your neighborhood or want to cover the front door with bright red paint for good luck, check out rural properties in your vicinity where freedom of expression is celebrated instead of suppressed. On the flip side, if you like a pristine environment and think rules were made to be followed and not broken, a community ruled by an HOA could be a dream come true.