If you buy a home (such as a single-family home, condo, or townhome) in a planned, covenanted community, you will most likely be required to be part of a homeowners’ association (HOA). The rules of the HOA community are set forth in what is called the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). Read on find out what you need to know about CC&Rs if you are considering purchasing a home in a covenanted community or if you already live in one.
What Are Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs)?
The CC&Rs are basically the rules of your neighborhood. Generally, the goal of the CC&Rs is protect, preserve, and enhance property values in the community. Most of the time, the rules make sense and are easy to accept. (For example, it is pretty easy to agree with a covenant that requires you to mow your lawn and keep it weed-free.)
However, other rules might interfere with your plans or seem downright unreasonable to you. For example, perhaps you want to park your car in the street and store your extra belongings in the garage. However, an HOA might require you to park your car in the garage. Or, perhaps you are counting on the fact that you will be able to fence the yard to contain your dog, but if you read the CC&Rs, you may find out that the community doesn’t allow fences. Not to mention the fact that some HOA communities don’t allow certain sizes or particular breeds of dogs. This could mean that if you have a 120-pound Rottweiler, you might need to look at buying a home in a different neighborhood since changing the rules is usually difficult.
Likewise, if you’re planning a big project later on down the line (say painting your house a new color), you’ll need to check with the CC&Rs to make sure that the paint color you have chosen isn’t prohibited. (Learn more about this in Nolo’s article Homeowners' Associations (HOAs) and CC&Rs: Know What You’re Getting Into.)
Penalties for Violating the CC&Rs
When you close escrow on a home in a covenanted community, you will sign a series of papers, one of which states that you have read the CC&R's and agree to abide by them. (The HOA enforces the CC&Rs.) If you violate the CC&Rs, the penalties can include:
- forced compliance, or
- the HOA may file a lawsuit.
For example, suppose you try to sneak your large Rottweiler into a community despite the fact that there is rule that the maximum weight for pets is 30 pounds. In addition to fines, you could be forced to give up the dog or find a new place to live. For this reason, you really should read the CC&Rs before purchasing a home in a covenanted community. (Find out more about taking a closer look at what's in your HOA's governing and other relevant documents in Nolo’s article Before Buying: How to Read the CC&Rs or Homeowners' Association (HOA) Documents.)
HOA Monthly Dues and Assessments
Homeowners residing in covenanted communities are generally required to pay monthly dues and assessments to the HOA. The types of dues, assessments, and penalties for non-payment (such as late charges and interest) can be found in the CC&Rs.
If you fall behind in those dues and assessments, the HOA can get a lien on your home, which could lead to a foreclosure. (Learn more about homeowners’ association liens and how they can be foreclosed in Nolo’s article HOA Liens & Foreclosures: An Overview.)