When you move into a neighborhood with an association, you are agreeing to abide by certain rules, and you acknowledge that rule breakers may face financial consequences. Understanding the association’s rules and your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner will facilitate harmonious living.
Whether you call it a homeowners association, a community association, or a common interest community, these names can confuse new homeowners, but the concept of all three entities is similar:
- The association is a legal entity registered with the state of Nevada and was created at the onset of your neighborhood’s construction.
- Its responsibility is to maintain your neighborhood’s common areas.
- It has the right to enforce deed restrictions on your home.
In Washington, associations have been established in newer neighborhoods and condominium and townhome developments. Your home may have more than one homeowners association if it’s located in a planned community.
Understand the Rule Book
Your association’s rules are found in the “Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions” (CC&Rs) and other governing documents. Per the law, the seller or builder provides you with these documents at the time of purchase, and they become part of your home’s title.
CC&Rs describe a variety of items, such as how residents are elected to your association board, meeting rules, dues, home maintenance requirements, pre-approvals for changes to your property, restrictions on your home’s use, and fines. They also describe the association’s responsibilities for the maintenance of common areas, like parks, pools, a gated entrance, or landscaping.
The rules can vary greatly by association. Some communities are age restricted and require residents to be of a minimum age. Others may designate a specific area for adults only, while others may provide a pre-approved desert paint palette that will prevent you from painting your craftsman-style home in neon polka dots. Some rules will prevent you from turning your home into a rental or will limit the number or size of pets. Fines of different amounts may be levied on those who do not follow the rules.
- Because the rules can vary, it is essential to read and understand all CC&Rs before you buy your home.
- If you do not agree with them, it is simple — do not buy in that neighborhood.
When Problems Arise
Problems can arise even when you understand the rules. Perhaps a neighbor files a complaint or you are notified of a possible violation. CC&Rs list the protocol for conflict resolution: who to contact and how to appeal a violation or fine.
Like policy-based governance, a homeowners association only has the rights that are set forth in its CC&Rs. They cannot make up new rules. If this kind of management concerns you, you may want to consider buying a single-family home where there are fewer, less stringent or no restrictions at all.