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.