Mistakes HOAs make with their rulebooks and how to avoid them

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2023 | Residential Real Estate |

Homeowner associations (HOAs) establish specific standards for their communities and then work to enforce those rules to preserve property values. Successful HOAs help to preserve the unique charm of their communities and keep homeowners in compliance with the standards established in their local HOA rule book.

Unfortunately, some HOAs set themselves up for failure by making mistakes when drafting or updating their community rulebooks. These are some of the most common issues that can limit an HOA’s ability to effectively enforce its rules.

Vague language about property maintenance

Homeowners sometimes complain about what seemed like ridiculously specific rules established by their local HOA. Requiring that people remove trash bins within 24 hours or even limiting painting or siding jobs to specific colors are some of the seemingly unnecessarily specific rules that HOA imposed. However, when rules are vague, such as requiring “appropriate” or “common” colors for siding instead of providing a limited list of options, the risk exists for someone to maliciously misinterpret the rule and potentially justify a violation that affects every other homeowner nearby.

Terms that contradict state or federal law

Pennsylvania has rules that apply to housing and HOAs. For example, the Sunshine Act requires open meetings for HOA boards. Property owners should receive advance notice of all HOA meetings and have an opportunity to attend. HOA rules can not create scenarios where HOAs could meet in secret. The HOA also cannot maintain rules that would violate federal statutes. Banning wheelchair ramps or elevators in homes would be a violation of federal disability protections, for example. HOAs must ensure that the rules they impose align with all pertinent regulations.

Inadequate rules for enforcement

Another common oversight on the part of HOAs drafting rulebooks is the failure to include specific enforcement options for different violations. Without a rule establishing the right to seek a lien against a property or find a homeowner, individuals might be able to fight against enforcement efforts in court and when. HOAs establishing a new community or reviewing outdated Rule books we want to bring in legal support to ensure that the documents drafted are compliant with state laws and also adequately protect the community’s interests.

Having thoughtful rules in place will make it easier for a homeowners association to successfully fulfill its responsibility to the community. Seeking legal guidance when crafting or revising local rules is often helpful.