You like the idea of living in a planned community, but you’ve never dealt with a homeowners association (HOA) before. You’ve heard a few horror stories, so you have no idea what to expect.
Should you be worried? The HOA’s covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) can offer you a clue.
What are CC&Rs?
In essence, these are the rules that come along with any piece of property that you buy inside that community. Break them, and you could be subject to all kinds of penalties, including:
- Fines: You’ll probably get a verbal or written warning before you get a fine, but maybe not. Some HOAs are fiercer than others about enforcing the rules.
- Lost privileges: The amenities of a planned community are a huge draw — but any resident in violation of the CC&Rs may find their access to these amenities suspended.
- Liens and lawsuits: Eventually, the HOA may resort to liens, lawsuits and even foreclosure actions when dealing with recalcitrant homeowners.
What kinds of things do CC&Rs control?
When you buy into a community with an HOA, you need to remember that your property is only yours to do with as you please as long as you don’t violate the rules. Those rules can cover things like:
- How manicured your lawn and garden may have to be
- What colors you can use on the outside of your home
- Where you and your visitors may park
- What type of pets (even down to breed and size) you may own
- What type of fence you may have, including its height
- What outside decor you can use around the holidays
- Whether or not you may operate a home-based business
Although HOAs are primarily concerned with preserving the quality of life in an area and the property values, the rules can seem very intrusive to some people. If you’re contemplating buying a home that comes with an HOA, look carefully at the CC&Rs to make sure you can live with them.