Homeowners associations are helpful in many ways. Perhaps most importantly, they take steps to maintain property values and keep a neighborhood or development looking nice. This is well and good, but it is always a good idea to review the governing bylaws, covenants, conditions, and restrictions to determine what the association agreement does and does not cover and whether the guidelines work for a potential homebuyer.
Regardless of what the bylaws say, the homeowners still can protect their rights and best interests, particularly if the HOA appears to overstep its boundaries by enforcing some ridiculous or illegal restriction.
What an HOA cannot do
Every homeowner’s association will have specific things it can regulate. This depends on the community it represents and the powers invested in the HOA. However, regardless of what the HOA bylaws say, there are simply some rules that are illegal. For example:
- The HOA cannot violate the Fair Housing Act, which protects individuals from discrimination based on religion, gender, familial status, disability or race.
- It cannot fine the owner for actions not forbidden in the agreement.
- It cannot maliciously or vengefully fine the owner.
- It cannot arbitrarily change the rules since there are likely rules outlined in the agreement about making rule changes.
- Thanks to the FCC’s Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule, HOA boards can no longer restrict homeowners from using satellite dishes.
- It cannot ban clotheslines for drying clothes.
The HOA cannot forbid a homeowner from taking legal action or going to court. Regardless of the dispute, it often makes sense to consult with an attorney who handles real estate law issues. They can assess the case and determine whether legal action is a viable option.