A closer look at HOA covenantsHomeowners Associations, or HOAs, have become a ubiquitous presence in communities across the United States. With their neatly manicured lawns, consistent architectural designs, and communal amenities, HOAs offer numerous advantages to residents. But what makes these communities tick, and how do they maintain their order?

One of the fundamental components that governs life within an HOA is the HOA covenant. In this article, we will explore the world of HOA covenants and answer common questions like, "Is a covenant the same as an HOA?" and "How do I find my HOA rules and regulations?" We will also delve into the legal aspects, provide examples of covenants, and discuss the enforceability of these agreements.

Is a covenant the same as an HOA?

The short answer is no; a covenant is not the same as an HOA.

An HOA, or Homeowners Association, is a governing body created by a real estate developer or community members to manage and maintain common areas and amenities and enforce rules and regulations within a specific neighborhood or community. These rules and regulations are intended to ensure a harmonious and well-maintained environment. An HOA typically consists of a board of directors elected by community members, and they make decisions and set policies for the community.

On the other hand, an HOA covenant is a legal document that outlines the rules and restrictions governing a particular neighborhood or community. Think of it as the constitution of the community, with provisions and guidelines that homeowners are obligated to follow. Covenants are often established at the time of the community's creation or during the initial development phase, and they can cover a wide range of topics, such as architectural guidelines, property maintenance, pet ownership, and more.

In summary, while an HOA is the governing body responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations, an HOA covenant is the written agreement that spells out those rules and regulations.

How do I find my HOA rules and regulations?

If you're a homeowner in an HOA community and want to find your HOA rules and regulations, the process is usually straightforward.
  1. Review your HOA documents: Start by reviewing the documents provided to you when you purchased your home. These documents may include a copy of the covenants, bylaws, and any other rules and regulations. If you can't find them, contact your real estate agent or title company; they should have copies.

  2. Contact the HOA: If you don't have the documents or need more information, contact your HOA directly. They can provide you with the latest version of the covenants and any updates or amendments.

  3. Online Resources: Many HOAs have websites or online portals where they make their rules and regulations available to homeowners. Check if your HOA has an online presence and look for a "Documents" or "Resources" section on their website.

  4. Community Meetings: Attend HOA meetings or homeowner forums where residents often discuss and review rules and regulations. This can also be an opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification.

Is a covenant a legal contract?

Yes, an HOA covenant is a legal contract. When you purchase a home within an HOA community, you agree to abide by the rules and regulations outlined in the covenant. These covenants are typically filed with the county recorder's office, making them legally binding on all property owners within the community.

Enforcing these covenants is the responsibility of the HOA's board of directors. They have the authority to take various actions, including issuing warnings, fines, or even pursuing legal action against homeowners who violate the covenant. It's essential to understand that these covenants are enforceable in court and violating them can result in legal consequences.

What is an example of a covenant?

Covenants can cover a wide range of topics, and their specifics can vary significantly from one community to another. Here are a few examples of common covenants:
  1. Architectural Guidelines: Many HOAs have architectural guidelines that dictate the style, color, and materials that homeowners can use when making exterior changes to their homes. These guidelines help maintain a consistent and attractive look within the community.

  2. Landscaping and yard maintenance: Covenants often specify how homeowners should maintain their yards and landscaping, ensuring that the community remains visually appealing.

  3. Pet Ownership: Some covenants regulate pet ownership, including rules about the number of pets, breed restrictions, and leash requirements.

  4. Noise and nuisance regulations: Covenants may establish quiet hours or prohibit certain activities that could disturb the peace of the community.

  5. Renting and leasing: Some HOAs restrict or regulate renting and leasing of homes within the community, often with the aim of maintaining owner-occupied residences.

  6. Parking Restrictions: HOAs may impose parking rules to prevent overcrowding or unsightly parking situations.

Are all covenants enforceable?

While covenants are legally binding contracts, their enforceability can depend on various factors. It is generally in the best interest of both the HOA and homeowners to ensure that covenants are reasonable, fair, and in compliance with state and local laws. However, challenges can arise, and not all covenants are enforceable without question.

The enforceability of covenants can be affected by the following factors:
  • Legality: Covenants must comply with state and local laws. If a covenant contradicts or violates these laws, it may not be enforceable.

  • Fairness: Courts may consider whether a covenant is reasonable and fair. Covenants that are overly restrictive or discriminatory may face legal challenges.

  • Consistency: Covenants should be consistently enforced by the HOA. Selective or arbitrary enforcement can weaken their legal standing.

  • Proper Procedure: HOAs must follow the correct procedures when enforcing covenants, including providing proper notice to homeowners and allowing them an opportunity to appeal or correct violations.
In conclusion, HOA covenants are vital documents that define the rules and regulations governing a community, distinct from the HOA itself. These covenants are legally binding contracts, and homeowners are expected to adhere to them. However, their enforceability depends on various legal and practical factors. Understanding your HOA covenants is essential for harmonious living within the community and avoiding potential legal issues.

To learn how a professional management company can support your community and its HOA covenants, contact a member of our team at FirstService Residential.
Friday October 13, 2023