If you live in a planned community, chances are you are a member of a homeowners’ association. Such associations are legal entities typically formed pursuant to Chapter 47F of the North Carolina General Statutes that codify obligations an association has to its members and outlines the powers an association may have to enforce the rules and covenants of the community. There are many homeowners who are unaware of the existence of the homeowners’ association. Other homeowners may be vaguely aware of the existence of such an association but rather than familiarize themselves with the rules of the community, believe being a “good neighbor” is sufficient. Still others view the homeowners’ association as an evil entity responsible for expensive annual dues, special assessments and onerous rules. Regardless of the camp you fall into, ignorance of the obligations and powers of your homeowners’ association may result in a slap on the wrist or could result in real consequences such as the loss of your home.
The bad: For better or for worse, the governing documents for your community sets forth the ground rules within your community. For those of us who failed to read the documents thrust before us when making an offer or during the closing on the home, this may come as a surprise. An HOA may raise dues, charge special assessments, require approval from a homeowner before making an improvement to the structure or yard and fine you for non-compliance. Changing the governing documents can be accomplished but is very difficult as it requires a level of homeowner participation and consensus that is nearly impossible to achieve.
The ugly: In certain circumstances, failure to comply with community covenants and rules can result in daily fines, attorney’s fees and a lien on your property which could impair the marketability of your home. In the worst case scenario an unsatisfied lien could result in a foreclosure action and the loss of your home.
The good: Although the rules may seem unyielding, they should be easily obtainable and ascertainable. Digesting the applicable covenants, CCR, and by-laws, albeit tedious, will lead to an understanding of the obligations the homeowners’ association owes its members. These may include timely responses to reasonable inquires, timely notice and fair opportunity to be heard in the event of potential disciplinary action, consistent treatment in the enforcement of rules and regulations, and reasonable opportunity to vote in elections. Understanding these obligations and rights as a member of the association often times results in proactive involvement within the community for the betterment of all, maintaining the appearance of the homes and maintaining/increasing property values.
Should you seek further guidance relating to your rights and obligations within the context of your neighborhood HOA covenants, please give us a call. We are here to help.
Tim Zarsadias, Attorney
The McIntosh Law Firm, P.C.