Article Courtesy of Forbes Advisor
By Casey Bond and Mike Cetera
Published February 7, 2021
If you move into a condominium, gated complex or other
planned community, there’s a good chance you’ll also have to join a homeowners
association (HOA). These organizations exist to help protect and maintain the
properties in the community by establishing and enforcing certain rules.
These rules are outlined in the HOA’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and
Restrictions (CC&Rs). Some CC&Rs are simple, while others are quite strict and
complex. So before you consider a home that’s governed by an HOA, make sure you
understand how the CC&R works.
What Are CC&Rs?
Essentially, a CC&R tells you what you can and can’t do with your property. In
most cases, they’re perfectly sensible and easy to follow. For example, you
might be required to bring your trash cans out of the street by a certain time,
keep your lawn mowed or paint your home a certain color.
However, anyone who’s dealt with a nightmare HOA can tell you that not all CC&Rs
are reasonable. There can be numerous restrictions and harsh penalties for
violating them. That’s why it’s so important to review a community’s CC&R in
detail before committing to moving in. If you can’t stick to the guidelines—or
don’t want to—it’s not worth living there and dealing with the consequences.
How CC&Rs Work
The HOA board is responsible for creating and enforcing the CC&R. It’s important
to note that these guidelines are not laws that can be enforced by the
government. Rather, they’re private contracts among HOA members that are entered
Members of HOAs usually have to pay HOA fees, or dues. This money goes toward
general upkeep of the properties and surrounding grounds, such as landscaping,
pool maintenance and plumbing. The cost of HOA dues can vary widely—between $100
and $700 per month, or roughly $200 per month on average. In general, the more
amenities offered by the HOA, the higher the dues. Cost can also be impacted by
the size of the community and number of units.
The amount of fees and how they’re allocated, as well as how often dues can be
raised and by how much, are all detailed within the CC&R.
There are also times when you might have to pay assessments. These are one-time
charges for special projects or emergency services that the HOA is responsible
for handling but aren’t covered by regular dues. This could include hauling away
a fallen tree or repairing a burst pipe. Again, how assessments are handled
should be covered in the CC&R.
Common CC&R Requirements
As an HOA member, what types of restrictions can you expect from the CC&R? While
the provisions can range in number and stringency, there are some common
categories you should expect to find in a typical CC&R.
It’s common for HOAs to require properties to maintain a consistent look. If you
were thinking about painting your door bright red or replacing your lawn with a
succulent garden, you had better check the CC&R first and make sure it’s not
against the rules. There may be restrictions around what colors and designs are
In addition to keeping a uniform look, CC&Rs also contain guidelines around
general maintenance of the property. It’s common to require an overall
orderliness to the property; piles of trash, an unkempt yard, dilapidated
fencing and other unsightly issues won’t fly.
Many communities place restrictions on the types of animals you can keep on the
property. For example, you may only be allowed to have pets under a certain
weight limit. There may be restrictions around certain dog breeds. Livestock,
such as chickens, pigs or goats, may be prohibited.
CC&Rs often come with surrounding vehicles and where they can park. For
instance, if you have overnight guests, there may be restrictions on where they
can park and how long they can stay. If you have an RV or other oversized
vehicle, you may not be allowed to park it on the street or in a driveway where
it’s considered a visible eyesore to neighbors.
Many CC&Rs not only contain guidelines around the property itself, but also
dictate how you behave there. For instance, there may be noise restrictions
during certain hours. If there are common areas, such as a gym or pool, you
might be expected to follow a dress code. General disorderly conduct, such as
public drunkenness or disturbing the peace, may also be explicitly forbidden by
If you run a business out of your home, there could be additional CC&R
provisions to be aware of. Noise and foot traffic from clients coming to and
from your home, plus the increased presence of strangers in the community, could
be alarming to neighbors. That said, most home-based businesses are quiet
operations and don’t involve client visits. For this reason, most CC&Rs usually
focus on noise, traffic and pollution when it comes to home businesses.
CC&R Red Flags
Though the rules outlined in a CC&R can be extensive, there are some red flags
to watch out for. First, you should be wary of phrasing that is overly vague and
open to interpretation, such as the need to maintain a “general standard of
neatness and attractiveness.” This could leave you susceptible to fines and
other penalties if someone on the HOA board determines that you’ve breached the
There are also laws against certain restrictions. Namely, it’s illegal to base
any of the provisions within a CC&R on race.
What Happens If You Violate CC&Rs
Even though the provisions within CC&Rs are not laws, they are part of a binding
contract. So if you violate any part of it, there can be consequences.
If you break one of the rules outlined in the CC&R—perhaps you built an
unauthorized fence or let debris pile up in your yard—you’ll likely be fined.
You’ll also be expected to remedy the situation right away, or else continue to
be fined each day that the violation occurs.
Failure to pay your fine or fix the problem could also result in losing
privileges, such as access to the onsite laundry or gym, until you’re squared
up. If necessary, the HOA may have the issue fixed themselves and send you the
However, before it comes to that, you’ll likely have a hearing before the HOA
board first and be given the chance to explain your situation or appeal any
decisions made by the board.
If fines continue to go unpaid, or you haven’t paid your monthly dues, you may
land in court and face a lawsuit by the HOA. In an absolute worst case scenario,
if the HOA wins the lawsuit, it could then place a lien on your home and
potentially foreclose on it.
That’s dependent on your state’s laws, however. Some states only allow liens in
certain situations, such as a minimum amount owed. Some states may also prohibit
foreclosures when the lien consists of only unpaid fines and related costs.
That’s one more reason why it’s crucial to know the ins and outs of your CC&R,
as well as state laws, before agreeing to it. Of course, you would ideally avoid
such a situation in the first place.