Can the HOA stop me from using the common areas in my development?

Use of common spaces in an HOA community may come with its own rules and restrictions.

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Question

There’s a community clubhouse where I live and the HOA is telling me I can’t have a party there. I’m planning a big birthday bash, to which I will invite friends from both within our community and elsewhere. Since I own a part of the clubhouse, shouldn’t I be able to use it whenever I want?

Answer

Unfortunately for you, the short answer is “no.” The clubhouse is most likely one of the development’s common areas. This means it’s property owned by all the development’s home owners jointly.

Although you share ownership in the common areas, this does not mean you have free rein to use them whenever and however you want. When you purchased your home, you agreed to abide by the terms of the development’s governing documents. This means you agreed to follow all the rules and restrictions relating to the use of the common areas in those documents. The HOA is typically responsible for enforcing all regulations and restrictions.

Ask your HOA what rule or regulation it’s relying on to prohibit your use of the clubhouse for a private party. The HOA should be able to provide you with a copy of the specific rule it is enforcing.

To double check what this rule says, you may want to review the HOA’s governing documents. You’re likely to find the relevant rules and restrictions in one or more of the following: the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions, and Easements (CC&Rs); any separate Rules and Regulations; or the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of the homeowners association (HOA).

Specifically look for any regulations relating to the use of the clubhouse. You might find, for example, that the CC&Rs prohibit owners from having private parties in a common area (or specifically in the clubhouse) at any time. Or, the Rules and Regulations might specify certain procedures an owner must follow (such as making a reservation or paying a fee) before a party is allowed.

In certain situations, the CC&Rs might give the HOA the right to prevent an owner’s use of the common areas altogether. For example, an owner who is delinquent in paying dues and assessments might be restricted from using the common areas until paid up. If you discover this is the reason the HOA is prohibiting your use of the clubhouse, you might be able to have your party once you catch up on all overdue HOA payments.

Also, governing documents sometimes provide that a certain use (such as a private party) is up to the discretion of the board of directors of the HOA. If so, you may want to take steps to convince the board members to approve your use. Request a meeting with the board, and provide any assurances it might request.

If a rule in your development’s governing documents prohibits private parties outright, consider trying to revoke or revise the rule. Keep in mind, however, that amending the governing documents can be difficult. Usually you must follow specific procedures for a revision, and the matter must be put to a vote by the HOA or all its members (all homeowners in the development). Amending a governing document generally requires time, patience, and some financial outlay. If you plan on living in the community for a long time and have your heart set on future parties, however, you might determine that doing what it takes to change the regulations is worth it.

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