If you buy a home, like a single-family house, in a planned community, you'll most likely have to become part of a homeowners' association (HOA). An HOA's governing documents are usually in the form of a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws. The CC&Rs set out the rules of the HOA community. They describe the requirements and limitations of what you can do with your property. The goal of the CC&Rs is to protect, preserve, and enhance property values in the community. The bylaws, on the other hand, govern how the HOA operates. They describe how to run the HOA as a business.
The Declaration of CC&Rs is the legal document that lays out the guidelines for the planned community. The CC&Rs are usually recorded in the land records in the county where the property is located and are legally binding. When you purchase a lot or a home in a planned community, in most cases, you'll automatically become a member of the HOA.
Basically, the CC&Rs are the rules of your neighborhood. They govern what you can, can't, or must do with respect to your home. For example, the CC&Rs might require you to keep your garage door closed or prohibit certain types of landscaping. It's also typical for the CC&Rs to regulate things like basketball hoops, clotheslines, fences, TV antennas/satellite dishes, and garbage cans.
If you don't abide by the CC&Rs, the HOA might impose penalties for violations, like fines and various other consequences.
An HOA, which is typically set up as a nonprofit corporation, is an organization established to manage a private, planned community. Like other corporations, the HOA is governed by a board of directors who are elected by the members and a set of rules called "bylaws."
The bylaws govern how the HOA operates and contain the information needed to run the HOA as a business. The bylaws cover matters including:
If you're thinking about buying a home in an HOA community—or you already live in one—take the time to familiarize yourself with both the CC&Rs and the bylaws. That way, you'll be aware of any neighborhood restrictions and you'll understand how the community operates. If you have any questions about the HOA's governing documents and your rights, consider talking to a real estate lawyer.