Property Management, Tenant Selection, Real Estate News & Tips

Renter’s Guide to Understanding HOAs

By on June 27, 2016 in Education with 21 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 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 21 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?

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