The primary responsibility of every homeowners association is to protect property values and enhance the enjoyment of the community by the membership (homeowners). This is accomplished in part by instituting agreed-upon rules to shape decision-making and behaviors, thus ensuring the community looks great and remains an enjoyable place to call home.
One of the common frustrations we hear from homeowners revolves around violations of the association’s Rules & Regulations. Part of your association’s governing documents, Rules & Regulations outline conduct by the membership that supports high property values and ensures that everyone in the community has equal access to shared amenities.
Here are three rules we often see homeowners misunderstand. We understand that receiving a violation notice often comes as an unpleasant surprise, so familiarizing yourself with these will help protect against unwitting violations.
1. Architectural Requirements
Confusion surrounding architectural requirements are some of the most frequent complaints we receive from homeowners. Your HOA’s architectural requirements are in place to promote a consistent, attractive neighborhood. These rules ensure your own property value is not negatively impacted by a creative neighbor who decides to paint their house bright pink with purple stripes (unless, of course, your community’s architectural guidelines permit such experimental design choices…)
Keep in mind that architectural approval is not just limited to changes to your home’s paint scheme or structure. Everything on or around your property that is visible from the common area requires approval for modification, including landscaping, fences, driveways, and mailboxes. That said, there is opportunity for plenty of creativity within a community’s architectural guidelines. Approved paint colors, building materials and exterior landscaping choices all provide significant leeway to bring your vision to life while operating within the parameters of your HOA’s architectural requirements.
Every association details the criteria for aesthetic improvements in the HOA’S Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) as well as in the community’s Architectural Guidelines, usually contained in the association’s Rules & Regulations. These important governing documents not only stipulate the approved materials for use in your community, they also detail the correct procedure for submitting the appropriate applications.
Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you’ll need to submit the correct form:
Standard Application – Use this form for submitting a request for a project that falls within the scope of the standards already established by your community.
Variance Application – If your architectural request varies from your community’s Architectural Guidelines, you’ll need to obtain special permission, called a “variance.”
Your manager can help you complete each form, confirm you have assembled all required materials before submitting and answer any questions. Don’t hesitate to ask for their assistance.
Your property association management company will ensure your application is on the board’s upcoming meeting agenda and your HOA board will typically takes 30 or 45 days to review. If your application is denied or only partially approved, all is not lost. Work with your manager to amend your plans and application to address your board’s issues, then re-submit.
Remember, city and state codes supersede approval from your association. Always confirm that your plans meet code requirements before submitting your application.
Parking issues are another of the most common complaints we hear from homeowners. In communities with single-family homes, many of the problems surround street parking or driveway usage, whereas in condo communities, the issue is usually regarding parking shortage.
For communities with street parking, Rules & Regulations are in place to keep the community looking sharp and ensuring maintenance service providers (ex. street sweeping) are able to perform their duties. Being mindful of these rules creates consistency and order throughout your community.
In densely populated communities, parking scarcity can create frustration. Unfortunately, your homeowner’s association cannot wave a magic wand to produce more parking spaces. Therefore, they are tasked with managing the amount of existing parking in the fairest and most equitable way for all residents. Your HOA’s Rules & Regulations will detail parking rules, including number of spaces allotted to each household, requirements for guest parking, carport usage, garage usage, etc.
Even though HOAs cannot create parking spaces where none currently exist, there are often rules in place to maximize the efficiency of existing parking. Permitting systems, security decals, guest passes and extra signage may seem like a hassle, but all are useful systems to ensure sufficient parking for residents and guests and protect against unauthorized outsiders occupying your community’s spaces.
3. Amenities Usage
The common areas of your community are controlled by your association. Amenities rules are in place to make sure your common areas are well maintained and available for use by everyone in your community, especially these days as residents spend more time at home. Rules for your amenities may be posted onsite but will also be contained in your community’s Rules & Regulations document.
In unexpected emergency circumstances (ex. Covid-19) your HOA’s board may need to temporarily amend the rules in order to keep community members safe and address previously unforeseen scheduling challenges. Keep an eye on your community’s website or speak with your property manager to receive the most up-to-date information.
Remember, your association’s volunteer board of directors is in charge of making the rules, while your property management company is only tasked with enforcing them fairly. When a new rule is up for approval, the membership receives written notice 28 days in advance to allow for enough time for discussion. If there is a rule in your community that doesn’t make sense, speak with your manager about putting your concern on the agenda at the next open forum board meeting. Take the time to share your perspective.
Board members rely on feedback from the membership to determine what is working well for the community and what no longer serves the community’s needs. Attend a board meeting (safely in-person or online using virtual meeting tools) to share your thoughts. When articulating your point, state what you want, share your reasoning and demonstrate benefits to the overall community, not just yourself.
By understanding the role of your community’s Rules & Regulations and where to go to find more information, we hope you’ll find it easier to navigate your existing rules and spark even more ideas for positive change.
Want to know more about your community’s governing documents? Contact Keystone today and we’ll walk you through them.