Property Management, Tenant Selection, Real Estate News & Tips

Renter’s Guide to Understanding HOAs

By on June 27, 2016 in Education with 47 Comments

homeowners associationIf you just moved into a rental property that belongs to an HOA you might be a little confused about your new responsibilities as an HOA renter. This guide will give you an overview of what HOAs do, how rules are enforced in the community, and what your landlord’s duties are when you rent an HOA property.

What is an HOA?

An HOA, or Homeowners Association, is a legal entity developed to manage and maintain the common areas of a community. As many as 60 million Americans live in homes regulated by a homeowners’ association, as of 2012.  Most often, HOAs are established for housing developments of communities that include condominiums, single family homes or townhouses.

Because multiple parties live in the same building or complex, all residents of condominiums and townhomes must be equally responsible for maintaining the common areas such as landscaping, elevators, swimming pools, clubhouses, parking garages, fitness rooms, sidewalks, security gates, roofing and building exteriors. Many of these types of common areas, such as pools and tennis courts, also exist in subdivisions of single family homes. Regardless of whether the HOA governs a building, such as a condo or townhome structure, or a neighborhood of individual houses, HOA fees help maintain the quality of life for the community’s residents and protect property values for all owners.

These associations charge property owners fees or dues to maintain the common areas and landscaping. The property owner may, in turn, pass through those expenses to the renter either indirectly through increased rent or directly.

What are CC&Rs?

In addition to maintaining common areas, HOAs also set out certain rules that all residents must follow called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). In a common building, rules may include what color front door you may have, whether you are allowed to line dry your laundry outside, whether you can have a satellite dish, the size and type of pets permitted, and so on. In many ways, these rules are similar to the types of rules established by a property manager of an apartment complex.

What are HOA Bylaws?

HOAs are also governed by Bylaws that dictate how the HOA will be run and talks about voting processes, meetings, board member positions and other operating guidelines. Most likely, a renter will not be affected by the HOA’s Bylaws.

What are Rules and Regulations for HOAs?

Your community’s Rules & Regulations are a catch–all for the things that aren’t covered in the Bylaws or CC&Rs. These are often the rules that might need revising over time due to changes in the community.

The Rules and Regulations are most likely to be the documents you deal with the most in your day-to-day life. Included in them should be a list of precedents regarding menial things: where your trash bins should go, how many pets are allowed on the property, how tall your fence can be, etc.

Rules Enforcement and Landlord Responsibilities

The HOA has the right to expect all residents, whether owner or renter, to play by the rules. But with renters, it’s up to the landlord to enforce the community’s rules, not the HOA. An HOA may require that all rental agreements reference the documents that govern the HOA, including the CC&R and Rules and Regulations.

Additionally, Realty Times explains that HOAs may require the following agreements and actions of homeowners who rent out their home:

  • Landlords must provide a set of governing documents (CC&Rs) and rules to renters before move in.
  • HOA rules & regulations must be a condition of all rental agreements.
  • Landlords are held accountable for renter infractions.
  • Renters must communicate requests to the HOA through the landlord.
  • Board may demand termination of a tenant with multiple rule violations.
  • Landlord must provide a copy of each rental agreement to ensure compliance with the HOA’s standards and for emergency contact purposes.

What If the Renter Breaks the Rules?

Landlords within an HOA are responsible for ensuring that their tenants play by the association’s rules. To prevent rule violations, be sure to provide written copies of all HOA policies and rules, and be sure your lease agreement is in writing and adheres to the HOA’s governing documents.

If a tenant violates a rule, the homeowners’ association cannot take action directly against him. Instead, they must notify the landlord of the violation and it becomes the landlord’s responsibility to remedy the sitution. If there is a fine for the rule violation, it will be assessed against the landlord, not the tenant, but the landlord can recoup the amount if the lease stipulates.  If a renter continues to break HOA rules or be a nuisance to the community, the HOA may pursue appropriate legal action against the landlord.

If a tenant breaks a law or commits a crime, the homeowners’ association can report that directly to authorities.

Who Pays the HOA fees

Whoever the lease says pays the HOA fees has to pay it.  Generally the landlord pays the HOA fees since if the tenant fails to pay, the HOA can foreclose on the house.  This would be bad for the landlord, so they usually pay it to make sure it gets done.

Oftentimes, the homeowner will set a rent amount that factors in the price of the HOA dues. Other times, a lease agreement will stipulate that the renter is responsible for paying the HOA dues directly to the association.

If your lease states that the renter is in charge of paying the HOA fees, then the renter must do it. If a lease does not mention HOA fees, the landlord can not suddenly require a renter start paying them mid lease term, without updating the lease agreement to mutally agreed upon terms.

Remember, HOAs must follow the rules too

Although Homeowners associations hold a lot of power in establishing rules for a community, it is important to remember that renters have rights that must be respected. Besides the state Landlord-Tenant laws, Homeowners’ associations must also follow the Fair Housing Act, which means they cannot stipulate what type of person can or can’t rent. They cannot, for example, ban landlords from renting their homes to families or people of a certain race.

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About the Author

About the Author: Kaycee (Wegener) Miller manages marketing and media relations for Rentec Direct, bringing a unique perspective to the world of property management and proudly shares industry news, products, and trends within the community. .


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There Are 47 Brilliant Comments

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  1. freddie graves says:

    where can a HOA get a sample copy of rules and action that a HOA could go by

    • Try doing an internet search for “sample HOA rules [your state]” it’s important to find an example from your state b/c each state could have specific laws about rules your allowed to include or clauses you must include. Good luck!

  2. jerry says:

    Can a 55+ HOA demand proof of age after two years of being a tenant? We are, but also the youngest in the community (San Diego county)

    • I don’t know specifically about the rental laws in your area. But I believe that an HOA in a 55+ community can ask for age verification, even after you have been a tenant for a while.

  3. Nancy says:

    I rent to a couple who has a little dog. Down the hallway someone owns a couple puppy’s who have been urinating in the hallway. I am now getting notice that all animal owners on that floor have to pay a carpet cleaning fee. They do not know who is making a mess but are making us pay.

    Please advise

    • Sounds like a tricky situation for management. Since there is no way to prove which animal is the culprit for making the mess, it kinda makes sense that all animal owners would be help responsible. You could suggest that they install cameras in the hallways to identify which animals are doing their business where they are not supposed.

  4. Jason Roy says:

    Thanks for sharing on HOA. Share some more tips on HOA Education

  5. Claudia says:

    Even though in the rules & regulations every apartment is allowed to two parking spaces, my tenants have been renting for 3 years now, and have 4 cars with decals, which were renewed annually. This week, they decided to enforce this rule, and are revoking two of the decals they already had, even though they expire in November. Is this legal?

    • It think the complex would be able to enforce the 2 space parking rules and revoke the extra permits. But it would be nice of the complex/HOA to issue a refund for the unused months of the parking permit that were already paid for.

    • karen says:

      Yes it is legal and proper. It is possible the Management company was not told this unit already had 2 decals. There is usually no cost for decals, no refund.. Limited parking in complexes create issues where some take advantage of the rules.Sometimes new property managers come on board- so corrections are made when violations of rules are noted.That makes it fair for others who abide by the rules.

  6. Sasha Centeno says:

    I am a renter in a HOA Community. I was given a Violation Fee for having grease on the driveway. I have no paperwork stating what the violations are or that this was even a violation. I have a copy of my Lease and a copy of Rules and Regulations. It doesn’t specifically state anything as far as any Violation or what they are. The question I keep asking “How am I suppose to know what I am Violating if I don’t have a list of what is considered a Violation?”. Is there a way to fight this or am I just wasting my time? If its not specifically detailed in writing I feel that I should not be responsible for paying the Fee.

    • I would ask the HOA board these exact questions, they should be able to back up violation fees with paperwork that explains what the violations are.

      • Sasha Centeno says:

        You were helpful with info from my last comment. Heres another problem I am dealing with. The rental property that I live in is managed by a Property Management Company. I have been expressing concern over possible mold in the house. After almost 2 1/2 years they finally send someone to access the mold. The person they sent over didnt speak english, wasn’t part of a company, clearly did not have the qualifications. All he did was point to the ceiling and said “Eh no mold” and left. Haven’t heard from my Property Manager since. My gut was telling me to get a 2nd opinion and I’m glad I did. It’s confirmed that there is mold in the house. What do I do next? Seek out legal advise? Break my lease? I want to ensure that I recieve my Security Deposit and Last Month’s Rent in full as well as a reimbursement of the Air Quality Test that I paid for.

    • karen says:

      The correct way for HOA or Management Company to act is as follows.The landlord of the unit is ultimately held responsible for any damage-even incurred by a tenant. The landlord would then need to notify tenant to correct or he would hire someone to correct & get monies back from you. A warning is first issued with a time frame to correct violation, only then fines can be issued against owner.The HOA is supposed to contact Owner of Unit, not renter.

  7. cosmicgirl says:

    I rent a condo that is part of a HOA and it’s managed by a property management company. How do I find out what the HOA is for my complex? The property management company is really a bully and rude. I even complained to the manager at the property management company about something that needed to be fixed almost a month ago (water damage/ceiling stains from rain) and upon phone conversation she was raising her voice and didn’t let me get a word in edgewise. I told her ethically she is wrong and very unprofessional. I need to complain to the Board of Directors but don’t know how to go about doing so.

    • Did you ask the property manager how to contact the board of directors? Is there anything in your Rules & Regulations, CC&Rs, or Bylaws that reference any members of the HOA? Maybe ask a couple of your neighbors if they know? Perhaps your neighbor is one of the members of the board.

  8. James says:

    If a tenant causes damage to a common area of the building, who would be responsible for the repairs?

    Is it the landlords responsibility to to pursue the tenant for the cost of repairs?

    • The landlord would need to have proof that the tenant caused damage, and if so, yes, he should pursue the tenant for the cost of the repairs. What does the lease say? Does the lease state that all tenants and tenant’s guests will be responsible to damage done to common property?

  9. mark says:

    Our small (35 homes) Wisconsin HOA has some common areas, and two of the homes are leased to tenants. There is talk of restricting use of the common areas to owner-occupants only – barring the tenants from using them.
    Seems like discrimination to me. Anyone have any input?

    • I am not sure renters would be considered a protected class, so I don’t think discrimination is the right word. But yes, it seems a little extreme and rude to disallow renters from using common areas. The renters’ lease agreement should have language stating that it will follow all the rules outlined by the HOA’s bylaws including use of common areas.

  10. Rosie Santamaria says:

    Can a homeowners association (Oregon) prohibit security cameras installed on and covering only my space? I just moved into a mobile home park and only desire to see who enters my space, not people driving down the street, etc. I’m not talking about motion sensor lights…just small cameras that I can access from my phone. I’ve already been approached by a resident who represents the Association. He told me (amongst other things) they don’t allow private security measures because ‘”We all watch out for one another “. Eh…I got the feeling he was accustomed to residents – most of whom are quite elderly – going along with his off the books rules.

    • If it’s in the HOA bylaws then yes, I do think it is in the rights of the HOA to disallow the installation of security cameras.

      • Rosie says:

        Hi Kaycee. A new issue with this same HOA representative. I am more than qualified to live in this 55+ community. This gentleman has now asked me for a copy of my state ID ‘to verify your age’ and for my social security number. I expressed to him that my landlord had verified all required information and if he had questions he should talk to him. My landlord has assured me he will not provide the HOA with any of my personal information. After reading through the HOA rules there is no mention of private security cameras nor asking for copies of ID. My landlord spoke with him and supposedly all was resolved. This resulted in me and my landlord receiving a notice of infraction for ‘non-conforming landscaping’. I have not planted anything new and had also just finished cleaning up what was there to look more tidy. Again, nothing in the HOA rules prohibiting any of my plantings, nor their appearance. How do you deal with a HOA representative who really just seems to have his own agenda?

        • I think asking for a copy of your ID to verify age for a 55+ community is reasonable, as long as the board member is asking for a copy of every residents age. Age is not a protected class under the Federal Fair Housing. I would wonder the purpose of retaining your social security number is though. It sounds like the new infraction notice is a little retaliatory, you should be able to ask for specifics about how the rules where violated, based on documented by-laws. If the HOA can’t provide them, you should be able to plead your case against the board to remove the fine. If providing a copy of your ID will make the relationship better between you and the board member, I would wonder if it might be worth it to do so.

  11. Sasha Centeno says:

    I gave my Property Manager a 2 Month Notice that I will not be Renewing my Lease. First , Last and Security was given when Lease was signed in 2014. Last months rent is covering this month of June. I received an email today that I have to pay $70 difference of Last months rent to cover Rent Increase . It doesn’t state in my Lease or any Lease Extensions that I was required to pay any difference of Last months rent. If it’s not in actual writing in my Lease am I still responsible to pay? This is my first time dealing with this and I have been renting for 15 years. I’ve always paid First, Last and Security and never had to deal with what I’m dealing with now.

    • When you provide funds for the last month’s rent upon move in, the landlord typically holds the money in a secure account and then uses the funds to pay the rent amount for the final month of tenancy when the time comes. So if the rent increased during your tenancy, and you have previously agreed to this rent increase, the money you provided at move in for “last months rent” doesn’t actually cover the complete rent amount. It makes sense to me that you would be required to pay the difference in the rent increase, since what the landlord has been holding for you for the past two years in longer sufficient. Hope that helps.

      • Sasha Centeno says:

        Isn’t that type of information be included in the Lease Agreement? Like I said before I’ve never had to pay extra with any of my other Lanlords. So why now? If it’s not in writting and I didn’t sign it..I feel that I should not be held responsible.

        • Has your rent increased since you first started living at the property? Did you agree to this increase? If you did, that would change the amount of rent charged for your final month of tenancy, which your pre-payment at move-in wont completely cover.

          If your landlord suddenly decided to increase the rent for the final month, without providing proper notice, that situation would be illegal.

          • Sasha Centeno says:

            Info sent to me via email:

            “In most states, if you increase the rent but fail to require the tenant to increase the amount of their Pre-paid Last Month’s Rent, you can not collect the extra amount when the tenant moves out”

            “If you fail to increase the initial deposit of Last Month’s Rent soon after increasing the rent and just continue collecting the extra amount for each month, you cannot make the tenant pay that extra amount during the last month of tenancy.”

            Do you agree or disagree with this statement that was given to me?

          • I would definitely check your state and local laws to see what they have to say about last month’s rent and rent increases to verify if these statements apply to you. You can also present this information to your landlord and see what he says. Wishing you the luck in this tricky situation.

  12. Miss Vickie says:

    I’ve owned my house since 2001 and have had renters most of the time as I purchased it for a rental. I currently have an indefinite lease which only terminates if we both agree or I sell the house (a relative). Now the HOA is trying to add a new rule about renting. There has never been a rule before. It does Grandfather owners who currently lease but once the tenant is gone future leases can only be for 1 year at a time. My current lease also allows subleasing. Since I’ve had this agreement and signed by all for about 7 years, can any new rules by the HOA void my current lease? They are putting 2 pages of rental rules and I’m sure some will not allow what I have in my current lease. It seems I am legally obligated to what is in my lease and that is what I want. Can new just added HOA rules override existing leases?

    • I would ask your attorney to review your current lease and see what advice he or she has for this particular situation. I would also assume that you need to uphold the current conditions of the lease you have with your tenants, but not sure how that works with a sublease situation.

  13. Anna says:

    Greetings, we are renters and our HOA charges double HOA dues- from the landlord and then from us. That’s per HOA’s rules. We have a number of email communication from the HOA demanding dues payments and threats to deactivate pool access even we don’t need those and we are not the homeowners. Are they allowed to do so? Any regulations restricting HOAs from double charging? Any thoughts of situation? Thanks

    • If it’s in the HOA rules and a condition of your lease, then it sounds like you need to abide by them. An HOA might charge the renter because of the additional overhead it takes to communicate with both the owner and now the tenant. Additionally, might take a little more energy to enforce rules with renters as they are less familiar with HOA rules and the community’s CCNRs. While it sounds frustrating knowing that the HOA is “making double” on both the owner and the renter, think about the reason behind these fees and how they can benefit the community, after-all that is one of the benefits of living in an HOA community.

  14. Cristi OConnor says:

    I rented a house from an owner that uses a management company. Before we moved in we stipulated we wouldn’t rent unless we could have our boat on property. The owner said we could. He started getting fines for the boat and asked us to move it. He never paid the fines and kept getting charged for them but did not let us know until he was taken to court. Now we have received all the letters in one lump sum and have been told we owe for legal fees and fines that are over 2000.00. Isn’t he or the management company suppose to let us know about these fees and give us copies every time he received them so we could be responsible at that time and not after he goes to court and then tells us we owe over 2000.00? He wouldn’t have ended up going to court if there had been communication. It seems wrong.

    • I agree that it sounds a little unfair. Do you have any records of your communication with the landlord stating that the boat was allowed on the property? I would contact an attorney to see what your options are for this situation.

      • Cristi OConnor says:

        I have a person who works with the company who told the manager that she called the owner personally to ask if we could put boat on the property. He ok’d it. He stopped by the house 6 months ago and agreed he did ok it and didn’t know we couldn’t put boat on. We just fount out a couple days ago they are taking the fees out of our cleaning deposit.

  15. PO Johnson says:

    We allow some renters in our association. We have never had many problems till now. We do not have a management company because we feel at this time it may be a burden on some of our tenants with fixed incomes. We have a five person board that works very hard to maintain the property.
    One unit in each building is an upstairs loft with a Deck and stairs, then a side door on the bottom with a stoop and 3ft sidewalk to the outer sidewalk. The ground on each side of the sidewalk is common ground. The renter has store his grill, garbage cans and other time under the stair. We have asked that these things be move into the garage. Now the renter said he has gone around and other have think on their patio and ask if we are fining them. The renter want to deal with the board, but we want him to deal with the landlord or management company. Now he is insisting on coming to a board meeting to try an convince us to change the rules, but still will not remove the items. He is also asking to see our book and who we have fined. Do we have to allow him at the meeting.

    • What do the HOA rules says? Are renters allowed to speak at board meetings? That might be your answer. You should be fining everyone equally, not just renters, if they are keeping items on visible public spaces.

  16. Robert Quintana says:

    I am a tenant in a condominium. I understand that my lease states I must adhere to all rules and regulations of the HOA. Recently the HOA has implemented a parking permit requirement for the property. I am not disputing this. My dispute is that I was never informed of this new policy yet, I have had my vehicle towed for violating it. Owners were notified of the new policy in June; and in July the policy was implemented. It was July 1st that I found out about, I immediately notified my property management (they didn’t know either), they notified the HOA and started the process to get a parking permit. By mid-July I still didn’t have my parking permit and my vehicle was towed for violation. Any thoughts on this?

  17. Denise Sears says:

    Our HOA does not have any specific rules regarding renters, specifically: screening potential renters. Since the economic downturn 10 years ago, our low annual assessments attracted a lot of absentee landlords and investors, rather than the family-oriented owners that kept our neighborhood save and clean for decades.
    We assume we need to amend our governing documents to include Renter Guidelines/Restrictions- to add a screening process, to keep out unsavory characters or multiple families/tenants residing in a single family homes, etc.
    Do we need to amend our Declaration of Protective Covenants, since they “govern what you can, can’t, or must do with respect to your home.”?
    …or the Bylaws which “govern how the HOA operates and contain the information needed to run the HOA as a business.”?

    • I would think it would fall under Bylaws and Rules and Regulations. Remember that must uphold Federal Fair Housing Laws when creating screening guidelines for the residents of your HOA to follow.

      • Denise Sears says:

        Thanks. I was hoping it wouldn’t be the Bylaws, since they are much harder to change.
        Rules & Regulations would be very easy to change, but I am not sure they would stand up against a lawsuit…for that very reason…even if they meet Fair Housing…

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