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From the Nolo.com Real Estate Center  Nolo.com Self-Help Law Center
 

Homeowners' Associations and CC&Rs

When you buy a house in a new subdivision or planned unit development, you may be subject to a host of rules and regulations that apply to your property.

When you buy a good home in a new subdivision, common interest development (CID), planned unit development (PUD), or co-op, chances are good that you also automatically become a member of an exclusive club -- the homeowners' association, whose members are the people who own homes in the same development.

CC&Rs

The homeowners' association will probably exercise a lot of control over how you use your property. Deeds to houses in new developments almost always include restrictions on how the property can be used. Usually, these restrictions, called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs), put decision-making rights in the hands of a homeowners' association. If you don't understand something, ask for more information and seek legal advice if necessary.

Some associations enforce every rule with the enthusiasm of a Marine drill sergeant; others are run in a far more relaxed way. Most associations are very sensitive to making decisions which will enhance the value of the houses.

Study the CC&Rs carefully to see if they're compatible with your lifestyle. CC&Rs commonly limit the color or colors you can paint your house (often brown or gray), the color of the curtains or blinds visible from the street (usually white) and even the type of front yard landscaping you can do. Some even require that garages facing the street be kept neat, prohibit basketball hoops in the driveway or front yard and prohibit parking R.V.s or boats in the driveway.

These rules may be fairly general, but more often they are excruciatingly detailed. As the list below shows, homeowners' associations often have power over many aspects of everyday life.

Getting relief from overly restrictive CC&Rs after you move in isn't usually easy. You'll likely have to submit an application (with fee) for a variance, get your neighbors' permission and possibly go through a formal hearing. And if you want to make a structural change, such as building a fence or adding a room, you'll likely need formal permission from the association in addition to complying with city zoning rules.

Maintenance Fees

Homeowners' associations can often assess mandatory fees for common property maintenance, which can get expensive if the development has a pool, golf course or other recreational facility. Many associations in housing developments let their boards raise regular assessments up to 20% per year and levy additional special assessments with no membership vote for a new roof or other capital improvement. If you're on a tight budget, check the homeowners' association membership fee and how easy it is for the board to increase the amount. Also, if parts of the development have been occupied for a while, attend a homeowners' association meeting and talk with the officers about financing and other issues of concern.

What Homeowners' Associations May Regulate
(Not an Exhaustive List)
  • basketball hoops
  • house design sheds
  • clotheslines, lawns, shingles
  • exterior paint, mailboxes, swingsets
  • fences, noise, trees
  • garages, outdoor lights, tv antennas
  • garbage cans, views, window coverings
  • hedges, weeds
  • home businesses, pools, wreaths
  • pets (size or even acceptability)

      


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Revised: March 13, 2002.


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