Whether you’re an active HOA member or someone that is new to the club, you are probably well aware of many rules that may contain within an HOA. An organization’s longevity largely depends on members complying to specific bylaws. While it is true that an HOA does require its members to abide by all community guidelines, being in an HOA is far more than just following a list of rules and guidelines. Keep reading to discover the answers to the most commonly asked HOA questions and become a homeowner’s association expert, just like us!
What kinds of HOA rules will we cover today?
HOA Rules and the impact of Covid-19
How has Covid-19 affected HOA’s?
Covid-19 rules and regulations are determined by state and local governments. As businesses and our communities’ amenities begin to reopen, it is important to pay attention to the rules and regulations that may come with maintaining a safe and effective community. HOAs should follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended guidelines to keep their communities and residents safe.
The following are general guidelines prepared by the Community Associations Institute that “help community association board members, managers, and business partners determine how to safely and effectively operate in a world forever changed by COVID-19.”
- Communicating Regularly:
- How to stop the spread of germs.
- How to help staff and residents cope with stress.
- What to do if someone experiences symptoms.
- Encourage residents with medical conditions to be extra vigilant.
- Take extra care if a resident or employee is suspected of having COVID-19.
- Protecting Common Areas:
- Cancelling and postponing activities and events.
- Reduce the potential for close human contact in enclosed amenities.
- Ensure adequate ventilation and air flow in shared rooms.
- Clean and disinfect all shared areas.
- Protect Common Areas:
- Playgrounds – avoid large group events and limit playground use to residents.
- Maintain proper cleaning practices in activity rooms and exercise facilities.
- Pools, hot tubs, beaches and swimming areas ‒ limit use of aquatic venues to only staff and residents.
- Protecting Pets:
- Wash hands after handling animals, including their food and supplies.
- Consult with a veterinarian if you have any questions about your pet’s health.
- Practice good pet hygiene.
- Maintain Safe Business Operations – Train and Educate:
- Implement sick leave (time-off) policies and practices that are flexible and non-punitive.
- Develop return-to-work policies aligned with CDC’s criteria.
- Encourage social distancing between staff and residents (i.e. 6 feet apart).
- Limit the presence of nonessential volunteers and visitors in shared areas.
- Water Safety:
- All communities should follow local and state guidance that may determine when and how facilities may operate.
- Individuals should continue to protect themselves and others at recreational water venues both in and out of the water. For example, practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene.
To receive additional details and updates regarding new HOA rules, please visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
Is it acceptable for a community manager to ask if you have COVID-19?
In regard to property managers, it is important that they follow the guidelines distributed by the National Apartment Association that provides guidelines on notifying residents about any health or safety concerns. Although some HOAs and property managers have been known to ask residents to self-report any health concerns in regard to Covid-19, it is incumbent that both parties use safe legal practices so that the person’s right to privacy is not infringed on. According to an online article written by the dallasnews.com, “asking residents to report their own coronavirus diagnosis, legal experts warn, these organizations are inserting themselves into a situation where they’re obligated to protect individual privacy rights while adding little value to an already panicked community.”
Can Covid-19 affect an HOA employee?
Due to the new Assembly Bill (AB5), changes to the legal definition of an employee have recently changed. According to an online article from the San Diego Union-Tribune, “This creates a new Labor Code Section 2750.3 and affects any HOA using “independent contractors,” which might be reclassified as “employees.” In this situation, the worker can be classified as an independent contractor if the HOA does not control or direct the person in the course of work. This includes any work performed outside the HOA’s normal business hours and if the worker normally and independently performs the work for others. Every HOA is different, so it’s important to read up on any state changes or regulations that may affect your HOA community.
How should an association handle residents that may be late or delinquent on their dues?
Within the past 6 months, unemployment rates have reached the highest our society has seen since our last economic crisis in 2008. As we continue to go through this economic hardship, it is important to consider the members of your community. HOA board members should be fully prepared to take on measures related to this situation.
If a community member is not able to pay their dues, alternative options and processes should be implemented and communicated to all members. For example, associations should require a written letter or (request in the online community app) from the resident acknowledging why they are not able to pay, along with a reasoning as to why they would like to be given leniency. Following this process, the board may consider alternative payment options, such as waiving late fees so that less financial stress is placed on its members and their families.
What if an HOA is unable to pay its bills?
For HOAs that have faced a major financial loss as a result of Covid-19 or other economic hardships, the association might consider a few alternative ideas:
- Reduce the number of services to minimize expenses such as landscaping, cleaning services, pool hours, clubhouse use, etc..
- Ask for member volunteers to help in maintaining the community so that the HOA can save on certain expenses.
If cash flow is impacted, board members may consider borrowing from reserves to meet short-term cash flow problems. Taking California as an example, according to “(Civ. Code §5515(a).), Monies borrowed from the reserves must be repaid to the reserve fund within one year of the date of the initial transfer, except that the board may, after giving the same notice required for considering a transfer, and, upon making a finding supported by documentation that a temporary delay would be in the best interests of the association, temporarily delay the repayment. (Civ. Code §5515(d).)”.
For more information, visit https://www.caionline.org/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx. An HOA should also consider seeking legal counsel to assure all regulations and proper procedures are implemented.
HOA Rules for Renters
Are renters required to pay HOA fees?
A renter that moves into a neighborhood overseen by an HOA, may be required to abide by the organization’s guidelines and in some cases, pay certain HOA fees enforced by the landlord. It is the landlord’s responsibility to communicate and provide their tenants with a copy of the CC&Rs rules, along with any other neighborhood guidelines that may impact them throughout the duration of their lease. If in the situation, a renter may violate an HOA rule, the responsibility is on the landlord to remedy the infraction.
Can an HOA evict a renter?
The HOA may not evict or enforce any of its governing documents with regard to third parties such as renters. Yet, if a renter does violate a rule governed by the HOA, the HOA will have authority to take action against the landlord.
Can HOAs ban renters?
A concern that intimidates many HOAs is if renters will run into the issue of neglecting their property or causing trouble amongst their neighbors. In situations that an HOA may allow a community to rent, there may be additional regulations and rules enforced for that renter. According to the Fair Housing Act, all HOAs must follow all fair practices. An HOA cannot take an adverse action affecting a person’s right to buy, rent, or enjoy the use of real estate based upon that individual’s membership in a protected class.
For example, an HOA may not ban a landlord for renting homes to families or persons of a certain race or gender. Other rules may include:
- How long a homeowner can rent out his or her space ‒ some may prohibit an owner from renting their home for less than 30 days.
- A HOA may require landlords to provide tenants with a copy of the HOA rules.
- A HOA may require the landlord to provide the HOA with tenant contact information and a copy of their lease.
- A HOA may cap the number of units that rent during a certain period.
What are some common HOA rules that a landlord must follow?
As the landlord of a property, one is required to follow all maintenance rules presented by the HOA and CC&R guidelines. Some responsibilities may include:
- Clearly communicating that HOA’s rules and regulations to all tenants.
- Maintaining their renter’s yard and lawn duties that abide by that HOA’s community guidelines.
- Maintaining the cleanliness of driveways, pools and the removal of trash.
It has also been known that some HOAs may require the landlord to provide the HOA board with a written explanation of how they will maintain and meet all HOA guidelines before renting out to a tenant.
HOA Rules for Dogs and other Pets
Although specific pet restrictions may be enforced, the majority of HOAs are pet friendly. For example, some rules may prohibit the number of pets one can have, along with having pets of a certain size, weight and/or breed. In addition to this, HOAs may also enforce noise restrictions and pet maintenance.
What are common HOA rules behind having a dog?
Most HOAs do allow dogs with restrictions on and/or breed to limit the fear other community members may experience as it relates to certain breeds or sizes. Other rules may enforce how one’s dog must be looked after in specific community spaces. For example, HOAs may limit areas that dogs are allowed access to such as a playground or swimming pool. In addition, most HOAs do require pet owners to maintain their pets’ hygiene while around other residents.
What rules do HOAs have on dogs that may bark a lot?
An HOA is only able to enforce the rules that are laid out in their CC&R. In the situation that there are written rules regarding dogs and/or general noise, an HOA is able to enforce those rules. Typically, HOAs will require a written notice of a noise complaint, following a written warning to the dog owner. If the problem persists, the HOA board may enforce the policy by issuing a fine, muzzling, or disallowing the dog all together.
Can an HOA restrict service animals?
According to the federal housing and disability protection laws, all individuals with physical, mental and emotional disabilities are given the right to have a service animal. Because of this, HOAs cannot restrict service animals in any shape or form.
What if my pet violates an HOA rule?
If a member violates an HOA rule in regard to their pet, the resident may be notified of a violation. The board may then impose a fine (if authorized by the community’s governing documents). In other situations, if the resident refuses to address the issue, legal action may occur. Furthermore, if a member then refuses to obey with any court orders, a judge may direct a sheriff to take action on the situation, which could lead to a much larger fine or even jail time.
HOA Rules for Plant Maintenance
HOA rules for plants and lawn maintenance may vary by type of property. The purpose of having HOA rules based around both these topics is so that a community can continue maintaining its value. Not to mention, it creates a positive and welcoming look for its members and other residents.
- Single-Family Home Communities – for single-family home communities, plant rules tend to be centered on lawn and tree upkeep. In most cases, a family will hire a landscaping company to care for common areas. This may include front entrances, signage areas, mowing, pruning, weeding, seasonal flowers, pools and playground areas.
- Condo Communities – for condominium communities, an HOA will likely provide landscaping for front lawns. Regulations around upkeep may also be provided if they do not provide the upkeep themselves.
- Townhouses Communities – HOAs that govern properties as these, will often include landscaping such as mowing once a week, leaf pick-up, mulching and pruning plants.
HOA Rules for Balconies
HOAs can limit and regulate what is allowed on balconies. For example, an HOA can establish that no personal property like bikes or toys be allowed on balconies. This may include enforcing holiday decor that is only allowed for a specific amount of time. In any case, these rules are implemented so that balconies may avoid weight issues (in the case of a raised garden) or the potential for dirt and debris.
HOA Rules for BBQ Equipment
Any HOA community that allows their residents to bbq or grill should have safety postings visible at all times. Individually owned bbqs may also have enforced rules around location for use, storage of fuel, limitations on duration of use and cleanup after use.
Other common HOA rules in regard to grilling may include:
- Maintenance – HOAs must remind residents to check all connections between grills and gas hookups.
- Maintain distance from potential hazardous structures – applies to grills on a balcony or patio that may be too close to structures such as a tree and large branch.
- Sand – some HOAs may encourage residents to keep a bucket of sand next to their grill. This is extremely helpful if in the situation a fire breaks out.
- Carbon monoxide detectors – although this is not considered a rule, it is often encouraged to encourage your community to install carbon monoxide detectors ‒ especially if a grill is located on a balcony or near a home entrance.
HOA Rules for Backyards
Backyard HOA rules depend on that specific property’s type. For example, the following are common rules that most HOAs may implement.
- Single family properties – communities with fenced yards are typically limited to what can be seen above fence lines and prohibit certain types of additional buildings like sheds and certain trees or shrubs that may be seen over fence lines.
- Condo or townhome properties – may have more regulations that pertain to potential shared spaces or non-fenced/iron-fenced properties due to more visibility in the community.
HOA Rules for Commercial Vehicles
Most HOAs restrict, and occasionally prohibit parking commercial vehicles such as pickup trucks, semi-trucks, vans or even trailers on streets, in driveways or in common areas, especially overnight. Many CC&Rs require commercial vehicles to be parked in a garage, with the garage door down in most cases. In regard to branded vehicles such as a plumber or electrician, it is common that HOAs may ask that these vehicles temporarily park or park in a designated temporary administered area.
HOA Board Members and Rules
Although the actual laws may differ, HOA Board members must abide by rules that are similar in every community and state. In addition to specific state laws, boards must uphold rulings around maintaining some of the following areas:
- Common areas rules and regulations.
- Maintaining and organizing a budget.
- Adopting and enforcing rules to all community members.
- Organize politically to elect their representatives – the board must ensure a fair and free board is properly implemented each year.
- Upkeep on all proper documentation.
- Prepare processes and procedures in the situation of an emergency.
- Maintain all insurance policies.
- Maintain contracts, leases and other agreements.
- Keep track of all minutes and board meetings.