Real estate

What to Do When Your HOA Oversteps Its Bounds

rfgegwetA Home Owners Association (HOA) sets many rules and restrictions for homeowners. Regulations usually deal with architectural or landscaping restrictions or how many pets you own. But can the HOA choose who buys a home? The answer to that question depends on certain factors.

Weeding out Non-Desirable Residents

When looking for a home, be aware some HOA Boards want a certificate of approval even after the seller accepts an offer. The association wants to know about credit and job history even though the loan company reviews that already.And, some boards even want a criminal background check on the buyer. But fair housing rules restrict HOAs from turning down buyers for unwarranted reasons.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HOAs cannot turn down a homeowner simply because of a criminal record. The Fair Housing Act eliminates discrimination based on race, religion, or sex. Further, HUD says that since most people with criminal records are of certain races, refusing them the opportunity to buy a home is racial discrimination. The department goes on to explain that reentry into society for many convicts depends on their ability to get safe and secure housing.

If you believe an HOA discriminated against you, follow this three-step process. First, does the HOA rule cause an impact on a particular group based on race or nation of origin? Next, does the HOA show any legal justification for the refusal? Last, is an alternate policy available that is less discriminatory? If the findings show discrimination, the HOA cannot reject the home buyer.

Common HOA Complaints

The most common complaints against HOAs include:

  • No warning about changes to HOA rules and regulations.
  • Landscape issues, especially trees, that obscure views.
  • The HOA is not maintaining common areas.
  • Property encroachments of decks, fences, or room additions.
  • Noise and disturbances such as barking dogs, loud music, etc.
  • Unfair enforcement of association governing documents.

Conversely, HOAs dispute with homeowners include:

  • Not paying HOA dues or assessments on time.
  • Not keeping your home per the rules and regulations.
  • Parking in authorized areas.
  • Violating use and zoning ordinances.
  • Having too many pets or prohibited pets.

No matter who complains, petitioning the HOA Board for changes is a homeowner’s right. A petition does need a certain percentage of resident signatures to warrant a hearing. The same guideline applies to petitions to remove an HOA board member.

Amending the Rules

The Declaration defines an HOA’s power and usually contains language for amending any rules. Sometimes, in order to change a rule, you must receive a unanimous agreement of all community members. Other association declarations only need a simple majority of member’s votes to approve changes. But remember, the process is often difficult when since many neighbor’s fear retaliation of a powerful board if they support a change.

While the Declaration also defines rules for conducting amending the agreement, if the HOA board opposes your changes it is best to speak with an attorney. Choose an attorney experienced in dealing with HOA’s to increase your chance of success. The attorney also knows your state laws with regard to HOA’s power. An association overstepping its bounds faces penalties or invalidation by the state once the proper authority hears of it.

If you find yourself still at an impasse, talk to the attorney before heading to court. Sometimes an attorney reaches a settlement without going before the judge, saving both sides money. If court is the only alternative left, be aware, that court costs and attorney fees add up quickly and the unsuccessful party pays these fees for the prevailing side.

Before moving to a neighborhood with an HOA make sure you read all the rules and regulations. If there are items you are uncomfortable with, best to keep looking. If you believe the HOA discriminated against you, there are remedies. Things done in your past doesn’t prevent you from living where you want.

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