HOA Living: How to Read Your CC&Rs
Your community’s CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) are probably 100+ pages packed with legal-sounding jargon. It can be a lot to get through. If you just moved into a community—or decided to finally crack open your governing documents after living in an HOA for awhile, here’s some good news: there are really only two main sections that are likely to influence your day-to-day life in the community.
In this article, we’ll show you how to read your CC&Rs so that you can get the most out of this important governing document.
What Are CC&Rs?
The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (“CC&Rs”) is the detailed outline of your community’s development and configuration, along with the operation of your homeowners association. This document covers the rights and obligations of each member, as well as those of the association itself. Separate from your HOA’s Bylaws and Rules & Regulations, CC&Rs articulate the legally-binding fine points of your particular association. Because a copy is filed with the state, amendments to CC&Rs require a vote by your HOA’s membership.
Important Section: Association Maintenance Responsibility and Homeowner Maintenance Responsibilities
This section breaks down what homeowners maintain and which maintenance issues are the association’s responsibility.
Every CC&R will explicitly delineate what you own and what you don’t own, as well as what you are responsible for maintaining and what falls under the responsibility of your HOA. Believe it or not, these can be different. For example, you may own your front yard, but your CC&Rs stipulate that your HOA maintains it. Alternately, your CC&Rs might state that you own your roof and you are also responsible for it. Or, you own the building your unit is located in, but your HOA is responsible for painting it.
In rare cases, there might be a slice of HOA common area that you might have some right to maintain. (For example, a flower bed or patio that the previous owner of your property has requested to maintain and was granted an exemption by the HOA). Items of this nature would be articulated as an “Exclusive Use Common Area”—i.e. though it’s technically common area, you may be responsible for maintenance if it only serves your home. Because this can get confusing, it is often best to ask your Community Manager about Exclusive Use Common Areas.
It’s important for you to have a clear understanding of who owns/is responsible for what so that you don’t end up making decisions about—or paying for—maintenance or upgrades that are the association’s responsibility.
Important Section: Architectural Standards
Once you have determined what is within your right to change, the Architectural Standards section of your CC&Rs outlines the steps you will undertake for submission and approval of a potential change you would like to make to your home. Note: If the Architectural Standards section is not located in your CC&Rs, look in your HOA’s Rules & Regulations, or ask your HOA management company. Though this section can vary by HOA, it usually stipulates the general guidelines regarding changes to aspects of your property that can be seen from common areas. To make a change to these areas, you must submit an application for an Architectural Variance.
The Architectural Standard section of your CC&Rs will define the process of submitting your Architectural Variance application to your HOA’s architectural review committee/board/HOA management company, the number of days for review, and what to expect upon approval or denial of your request.
Save yourself a ton of frustration by reviewing this section before you make any final decisions about changing any aspect of your property. If you’re not sure where to obtain an Architectural Application, your HOA manager can provide you with one. Your manager will also review your application for completeness and explain what you can expect during the approvals process. Submitting a complete and correct form will increase the chances of speedy approval.
When you’re excited to move into a new property, the last thing you want to do is study a thick document that outlines the legal obligations of your membership in an HOA. However, changes to your property are one of those instances where it’s much better to ask for permission than forgiveness. Understanding the two sections of your CC&Rs that address maintenance responsibilities and architectural changes can save you from the headache of inadvertently overstepping your bounds.