When to Get a Lawyer to Fight Your HOA

More than 20 percent of homes in America are part of an HOA (homeowners association), and some research suggests HOAs can help homes retain or increase in value. HOAs offer a wide range of benefits to many communities such as pools, tennis courts, playgrounds and valuable green spaces.

This growing trend toward HOA-operated communities is not without drawbacks, however. There are plenty of HOA horror stories, replete with HOA representatives suing homeowners over the type of grass they used, or for not having the correct mailbox, and in some cases, even foreclosing on homes due to unpaid HOA fees.

HOAs vary, of course, but in many cases they exert a large amount of control over what kind of changes can be made to an individual home in the community.

As a result, homeowners may find themselves required to make certain changes to the exterior or even interior of their homes. Unfortunately, many of those changes may not be covered by insurance, especially if they’re not required to make the home livable.

Can HOAs Require Changes and Upgrades From Homeowners?

Whether your HOA can require you to make changes to your home is fully dependent on a few factors:

When you purchase a home in a community with an HOA, you are required to sign and agree to that community’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The CC&Rs for each community differ, but the CC&Rs for your community may have stipulations for what kind of changes must be made to the exterior or interior of your home.

If you’re purchasing a used home, there’s a chance that the CC&Rs were not followed by a previous owner. In this case, the HOA may require you to follow certain rules in the CC&Rs regarding changes that the previous homeowner failed to adhere to. Additionally, if you are building a new home in the community, the CC&Rs may have set requirements for what kind of materials you can use, height restrictions, and other design and land use restrictions.

Most HOAs will have an architectural review committee that is in place to ensure all homes in the community follow the rules agreed to in the CC&R. If you find your HOA is requesting you make changes to your home, it’s likely the architectural review committee has determined some aspect of your home does not meet standards required by the CC&Rs.

Trouble for some homeowners may occur when the HOA changes the CC&Rs. In some cases, the HOA can add addendums or changes to the document without requiring additional consent from homeowners. From there, the HOA may ask for any new changes as required in the amended CC&Rs.

Simply put, when you sign the CC&Rs for an HOA, you are signing a document that is legally binding. The HOA can take action against a homeowner who refuses properly enact CC&Rs requirements, or who fails to pay HOA fees, including placing a lien on the home and enacting an HOA foreclosure on the home.

Insurance Limitations on HOA Change Requirements

Your homeowners insurance may cover some changes you make to your home. For example, if your home is damaged in a fire or from a storm, your homeowners insurance will likely cover the cost of repairs. But if your HOA uses this as an opportunity to request additional changes above and beyond what your insurance would cover, or requests that you utilize certain, more expensive materials, your insurance likely won’t cover it.

A community in Centennial, Colorado, discovered this reality after a summer 2018 hailstorm. Following the storm, the HOA required some homeowners to replace the roofs with shingles that met certain “aesthetic requirements.” Unfortunately for some homeowners in that community, their insurance did not cover those types of upgrades. Based on the requirements of the CC&Rs and the HOAs legal authority to enforce its rules, some homeowners were left to cover those costs out of pocket.

When situations like this arise, much of the HOA’s argument will fall into maintaining home values.

There is currently no insurance that homeowners can purchase that will cover the aesthetic changes your HOA demands. While you could purchase Ordinance or Law coverage as an endorsement to your existing homeowners insurance policy, it won’t likely cover the changes your HOA requires. Ordinance or law will help cover repairs or upgrades that meet legal codes for your city, town or state. Your HOA’s CC&R, however, is not a legal code, even though it is a legally binding document.

How to Handle an HOA Change Requirement

If you have been cited, fined, want to sue your homeowners’ association or your homeowners’ association has filed a lawsuit against you, then you should contact a HOA attorney.   While it is unpleasant to be in a dispute with your association, it is quite common.   The attorney is knowledgeable about HOA dispute matters and state laws.   The attorney can advise you of your legal rights and responsibilities and represent you in negotiations with your HOA or defend you in court.  

Common Disputes Against HOA’s

The following are matters that can result in disputes against HOA’s for not taking care of obligations regarding:

  • Changes to HOA rules and regulations
  • Open area spaces and blocking views
  • Landscape issues
  • Failure to maintain common areas
  • Breach of agreements with neighbors
  • Property encroachments of decks, fences, trees or room additions
  • Noise and disturbances; barking dogs, loud music, etc.
  • Enforcement of association governing documents

Common Disputes by HOA’s against Homeowners

The following are common HOA disputes that occur between HOA’s and homeowners:    

  • Failing to pay HOA dues or assessments on time
  • Not maintaining your home in accordance with the
  • Parking in authorized areas
  • Violating use and zoning ordinances
  • Ban on certain types, sizes, and number of pets

Being a member of a homeowners’ association isn’t for everybody.   So before you buy a property in a planned community, you should read their CC&R’s, and find out if there are any lawsuits between homeowners and the association.   If there are, you should investigate how many and the nature to determine if you really want to live in that community.

How Association’s Work?

The association is a governing body that runs your planned community or condominium building.   They association has a board of directors. Residents are elected to serve in positions such as President, Secretary and Chief Financial Offer or Treasurer.   The association’s bylaws and CC&R’s set forth the rules and regulations.   The association documents must comply with state and local laws.    The association receives funds from the homeowners in the form of dues, fines, penalties, interest and assessments.   Some associations are stricter in enforcing rules and regulations than others.    Associations conduct meetings, vote on matters and have the responsibility of maintaining the common area grounds and amenities.   Generally, before your association can fine you, you are given an opportunity to defend yourself in a hearing or meeting.   Although some homeowners associations have been known  to file a lawsuit without giving notice to the homeowner accused of violations.

Complaints About Associations

People who live in communities governed by associations frequently complain about the fact that the board of directors do not follow through on comments and complaints made by the homeowners that they represent.   Other big complaints are mismanagement of HOA funds and lack of enforcement of common area rules and regulations.   By hiring an HOA lawyer, you have the ability to fight back against injustice and unfair treatment.   Your attorney can also keep you informed  of changes in the laws and give you advice on how to handle matters as they come up.  HOA’s have responsibilities to maintain the common areas of your community and make repairs, but they don’t have the rights to infringe on your freedom and personal life.        

Hire Stephen Barker as your Attorney

If you are involved  in a dispute with your HOA, you should hire a subrogation attorney to assist you. That’s where Stephen Barker Law can serve you when you want to sue or challenge Home Owners Association.  HOA matters can become heated and emotional, so it is best to have an experienced attorney handle the negotiations and resolve the dispute for you. The attorney is an expert in HOA and state laws, and can explain them to you and advise of your legal rights and remedies. Give Stephen Barker Law a call today to work with you to develop the best case for you, today at (561) 910-4340 or +15619104340.

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