The Most Common HOA Violations (A Guide for HOA Boards)
This is a comprehensive list of HOA violations for new HOA managers and board members.
Keep on reading to find out the most common violations you may have to deal with when serving on the HOA board.
FACT: The two terms - HOA and violations - are often used inseparably. And equally, usually, whoever’s referring to them applies a negative meaning to those words.
Now, it’s true, HOAs set, monitor, and enforce rules and regulations (CC&Rs). Then, the board or a dedicated HOA manager inspects and monitors compliance, notifying residents of any violations that might have occurred and take action if these aren’t rectified.
But contrary to a common understanding of HOA rules, they serve a critical role in helping to maintain, preserve, and protect homes in the community and help create an excellent environment to live in.
So, to shed more light on the topic, let’s learn more about HOA violations ad see the most common ones you may have to enforce.
What are HOA Violations?
To understand the idea behind an HOA violation, we must take a step back, and discuss the purpose and role of a homeowner’s association (HOA).
An HOA is a legal entity operating in a planned community or a condominium. Its role is to set, monitor, and enforce rules for the properties and their residents. These rules are known as covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), and they define what residents can and cannot do with their properties.
When a person buys a home in an HOA community, they commit to adhering to those governing documents and following the association’s rules and regulations.
And, in most cases, that’s exactly what happens.
However, at times, someone might violate a rule, often by accident or because of not knowing that a particular activity isn’t permitted in the community.
The breaking of those rules is referred to as HOA violations, simply.
If that occurs, the board (or the HOA manager) will issue a violation notice. The document includes information about the violation, along with photographic evidence, with a request to rectify the issue.
(An example of a violation letter with proof evidence of a specific HOA violation.)
Unfortunately, although HOAs governing documents are openly available to residents, many homeowners aren’t fully aware of all the rules and regulations they should be adhering to.
Similarly, new HOA board members might not be sure what violations may be occurring in their community, typically.
For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of the 12 most common HOA violations. Naturally, the rules and regulations will differ between HOAs. However, below you’ll find a list of the most common violations that occur in HOA-governed communities.
(Please also note that we’ve listed those violations in no particular order. None of these violations is more important than the others, unless it’s stated in your HOAs governing documents.)
Common HOA Violations
As part of their operations, homeowners associations are also responsible for how the neighborhood looks. This also means overseeing how each house presents itself outside, including the landscaping in the front yard.
As a result, many HOAs will restrict the types of plants and trees that homeowners can plant and limit the areas where you could grow them.
Similarly, the association may restrict the type, or even the color of the fence residents can put around your property. In most cases, these restrictions will relate to maintaining the aesthetic of the estate.
However, in some cases, they might be in place to protect the community. Take those storm-prone areas of the country, for example. High winds can quickly turn certain types of fences into projectiles in those places, posing a danger to others in the community. Specific fencing guidelines help limit the possibility of such situations occurring.
Naturally, no HOA board will restrict what sounds can or cannot be heard in the community. However, you may decide to impose rules regarding noise levels at certain times of the day or night.
A typical example of such regulation is keeping the noise levels down between late evening and early morning to tame noisy neighbors and allow residents the much-needed sleep and rest.
Note that, often, noise rules follow the noise ordinances set out by your city or county.
In line with noise regulations, you might also impose rules for social gatherings in households. For example, these regulations might restrict the times when parties can be happening outside and rules for overnight guest parking.
HOA boards will often define where residents can keep garbage bins - typically store them away, rather than being held in plain view at the front of the house.
Moreover, many associations will also specify which items cannot be tossed into the trash and need to be dispensed differently. These items often include old furniture or electronics.
Vehicles and Parking
Many HOAs will have defined the type of vehicles that residents can keep on the property. As a result, your neighborhood may or may not permit parking of boats, commercial vehicles, or RVs at the driveway or the street.
Similarly, the association may have set out rules for overnight parking on the street and other neighborhood areas.
An HOA may put restrictions on the type of equipment residents can keep in front of your house or on the lawn. Such restrictions might require hiding bicycles, gardening equipment, as well as any other tools and mechanical appliances behind a fence and out of view.
Similarly, HOA might require residents not to erect sheds or any other storage facilities at the front of the house.
One of the most amazing things about HOA neighborhoods is how well and uniform those properties look together.
But that doesn’t happen by chance.
Most HOAs will protect the neighborhood’s uniformity by setting up rules that define (and limit) the design changes residents can make to their homes. For example, these rules might relate to such simple elements as the exterior house paint color and define the type of decor homeowners can use.
In some cases, residents may need to obtain written permission from the HOA board to make the planned changes to the house’s exterior.
Let’s face it; some of us may like to go a little crazy with holiday decorations. We may want to decorate our homes with Christmas lights, set up light projectors on the front lawn, and so on.
Typically, HOAs set no rules and regulations regarding the type of holiday decorations. However, as a board member, you might decide to define how soon before the holiday you are allowed to put up those decorations, and when they have to be gone.
Let’s face it; some residents love pets more than others. As an HOA board member, you must cater to everyone and ensure that both groups can coexist happily with each other. This typically means setting up rules and regulations regarding keeping pets in the neighborhood - setting up areas where dogs can and cannot walk, whether they need to be kept on leashes, and even limiting the number and breed of pets allowed in households.
Most HOAs do not object to residents working from home. There is little disruption to others when you’re typing away at a computer from the comfort of your home office, after all.
But the situation is different if a resident decides to run a business that might disrupt their neighbors’ quality of life. For example, take small home-based manufacturing plants or construction businesses. Both will require constant deliveries, pickups, and storing of equipment and business vehicles on the estate.
To maintain everyone’s quality of life, you might have to restrict the types of businesses that can be operated from a property and define rules for parking and traffic levels in and out of the company.
In many HOA communities, various rules affect whether homeowners can sublet their properties or not. Insurance is one such factor. The cost of the insurance might be directly tied to the ratio of owner-occupied and rented properties. As a result, residents might need to seek the HOAs’ written permission to sublet their homes.
Why Is It Necessary to Enforce HOA Rules
Covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) are there for a reason. They ensure that community residents enjoy order and harmony in the neighborhood. It is much nicer to live surrounded by equally well-kept homes and knowing what can happen, and where.
But for that to happen, someone must oversee and enforce those rules, ensuring that residents know and follow the neighborhood’s regulations.
Who Enforces HOA Rules
Typically, it’s the board or a dedicated HOA manager appointed by the board who runs regular inspections, evaluates whether all residents follow the rules and regulations, and issues violation notices.
In some instances, an HOA might also hire a dedicated management company to oversee the neighborhood and even conduct specific works to rectify issues and violations.
What Happens If Residents Violate HOA CC&Rs
It’s unfortunate, but, at times, you may find residents violating different HOA bylaws. Some of these violations might be relatively small and insignificant - leaving garbage bins outside the house or parking vehicles out on the street.
But eventually, you’ll also have to deal with more severe violations - Conducting home renovations without written permission, erecting an unpermitted fence, or changing the house exterior significantly.
What happens then?
In most cases, your HOA will have procedures and rules in place for issuing violation notices and ensuring compliance. Although the process might be slightly different for each HOA, it typically includes at least some of the steps below:
- Issuing warning letters
- Imposing fines for lack of compliance
- Revoking access to common areas in the neighborhood
- Taking direct legal action against the property owner
- Place a lien on the homeowner’s property until all debts to the association are paid.
How to Track and Enforce HOA Violations
There is no point in pretending otherwise - Tracking and enforcing HOA violations is a lengthy and complex process.
You have to run regular inspections, collect photographic evidence of any violations, issue violation letters, and track the status of each violation.
It’s easy to lose track of what’s what and where you are with each case you manage.
That’s why we built HOALife - The dedicated software for tracking and managing HOA violations, issuing warning notices, and reporting to the HOA board.
HOALife is a web and mobile app that allows you to track, report, and enforce CC&R violations with ease. Designed from the ground up with HOA managers in mind, HOALife improves your efficiency and accuracy while automating many aspects of the violations management process.
From recording your custom rule violations to sending notice letters in minutes, HOALife is the no.1 tool for HOA managers and boards.