HOA communities offer the opportunity to own a low-maintenance home while enjoying pleasant amenities such as gyms, pools, walking trails, and even golf courses. The trade-off is that you must pay a monthly or annual fee to maintain community property and agree to abide by the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that govern the HOA. Neglecting to read and understand all of these rules of the community is no excuse for not abiding by them. An HOA has a board that upholds the CC&Rs. An unwillingness to follow rules can result in fines and even liens on your property for non-payment of HOA dues.

But what happens when a home owner finds themselves in disagreement with their HOA? Here are a few facts about rights.

1. Home Owners in an HOA Have the Right to Change or Add Rules and Regulations

Rules that are deemed unfair, discriminatory, or outdated can be changed by the community. Whoever is proposing the change must follow the governing documents on how to do so. Usually the change or proposed new rule will require a major vote by all home owners.

2. Home Owners Can Question HOA Increases and Special Assessments

Usually board members establish HOA increases or special assessments because of a specific financial need to maintain or improve something in the community. A fee increase may reflect increased prices in lawn maintenance. A special assessment might be issued to cover extensive repairs on a pool. The board should have documented financial evidence to support their decisions. Home owners have the right to ask for financial oversight so they know how their money is being used. However, fees and assessments should continue to be paid even during formal action against an HOA board because the board has a right to place a lien on delinquent accounts or file for foreclosure to collect unpaid assessments.

3. Home Owners Have Access Rights to HOA Financial Reports and HOA Documents

HOA members have a right to access all of the following: financial reports, annual budget report, reserves summary, vendor contracts, board meeting minutes, HOA membership lists, HOA tax returns, governing documents, HOA rule changes or amendments, and plans for capital improvement projects.

4. Home Owners Have a Right to Disciplinary Hearings

Before a board takes action against a member, such as imposing a fine or suspending privileges, the member has the right to a hearing, even if the member has clearly violated the association’s rules.

5. Home Owners Can Display the American Flag

The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 supersedes any rule that prohibits lawn and garden flags.

6. Home Owners Can Display Political Signs

In some states, it is unlawful for an HOA to ban the use of political signs in a community. Ohio is one of them. HOAs may, however, restrict size and number of signs on a property.

7. Home Owners Can Have Solar Installations and Satellite Dishes on the Roof

These devices were once commonly prohibited because they were said to disturb the congruent exterior of some HOA communities. Federal law now gives all home owners rights to these devices, though an HOA board may still place restrictions, such as placement.

8. Home Owners Can Sue Their HOA

The home owner must have evidence to support their claim in a lawsuit. Keep in mind that the HOA has insurance for such suits and if the home owner loses, he or she may have to pay for damages and legal fees.

9. An HOA Has Legal Authority Per State Law and Governing Documents

The extent of legal authority can vary widely based on the state and the HOA itself. Imposing fines for rule breaking, liens for unpaid fees, and filing for foreclosure on a property for unpaid assessments are some of the more consequential results of this authority. Of course, home owners can check to ensure that nothing in their governing documents is in conflict with state law.

Real Estate Term of the Week

Special Assessment: An extra fee an association may charge home owners in case reserve funds of an HOA are insufficient. Common reasons why an HOA might impose a special assessment:

∙ The HOA board failed to properly calculate monthly expenses
∙ A budget deficit brought on by some home owners defaulting on their monthly dues
∙ Unforeseen repairs needed due to a natural calamity that the association’s insurance does not cover
∙ Amenities or fixtures require upgrading or replacing
∙ The addition of new community amenities

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