That air fryer that you ordered online has finally arrived. You’re excited to see what all the hype is about, but you realize that you don’t have space for your new appliance and your old toaster oven. Is it okay to toss the old thing in the community dumpster?
Later that week, you find out there are puppies for sale at a pet store near you. The staff tell you the dogs can grow to be over 100 pounds, but you’re a bit worried about that because you don’t see too many large dogs in your neighbourhood.
For these and similar situations, it’s always best to check your HOA’s rules.
Governing documents include CC&Rs, bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, and other rules and regulations made by the community. They are designed to help preserve the development, maintain the homes and facilities, and give members guidance. It’s easier to co-exist peacefully when everyone is clear about expectations.
Sometimes, the rules aren’t always readily available, which is why we want to help you identify the best ways to find them.
Before we get into methods for locating HOA rules, we want to clarify that there is a difference between CC&Rs, bylaws and rules. Once we give a brief description of each, we will use “rules” as a blanket term for all governing items (CC&Rs, bylaws and rules and regulations).
Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, sometimes referred to as a declaration or master deed, is a legal document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the association, board members, and owners. It details architectural standards for the community. CC&Rs are legally binding and very hard to change.
Developers create CC&Rs for an HOA when they build a new community. These documents must be recorded with the county recorder’s office.
While the CC&Rs focus on the property and ownership rights of the association, bylaws consider the logistics of how the HOA should function. They’ll usually address election guidelines, term limits for board members, meeting details, budgets, etc. Bylaws can also be difficult to change since they too are legally binding.
HOA can pass additional rules to help enforce and clarify items outlined within their CC&Rs. The board can adopt rules without a vote from owners, but that depends on how your HOA operates. If a rule significantly alters the governing documents, then a vote by all members is typically required. Rules address the day-to-day, nitty-gritty stuff. They are easier to change and modify since they do not have to be filed with the county.
Searching for rules when you are not a member of the HOA
Find the name of the subdivision or community
It may be hard to find the name of the association that a particular property belongs to. You might be searching for a new place to live, or you may be interested to see what types of rules other HOAs have. Either way, if you don’t know the name of an HOA community, but want to learn more about them, start with the local county assessor’s website. All U.S. assessor websites house property information, and they make it available to the public.
Perform a Google search, type in the county’s name with “county assessor property search.” Select the county assessor’s website and search for the property information.
Alternatively, you may have luck finding the association’s name if the home you are looking at is for sale. Realtors like Zillow, Trulia, or Realtor.com have community information published online.
Search state corporation commission websites
Once you find the legal name of the community or subdivision, you can find the association’s contact information by visiting the state’s corporation commission website (some links are listed below).
|Alabama||Alabama Secretary of State|
|Arizona||Arizona Corporation Commission|
|California||California Secretary of State|
|Florida||Florida Department of State|
|Hawaii||Hawaii Business Registration Division|
|Maine||Maine Secretary of State|
|Maryland||Maryland Secretary of State|
|New Jersey||State of New Jersey Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services|
|New York||New York Division of Corporations|
|Texas||Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts|
|Washington||Washington Secretary of State|
Visit the state’s corporation commission website and perform a corporation search by entering the correct name of the subdivision or community. Government websites will often allow the public to download an association’s Articles of Incorporation and annual reports at no cost. However, some states may charge a small fee.
Once you have this document, you will be able to access some form of contact information. Write a letter, send an email, or call the association for more information about their rules.
Visit the county recorder’s office
If the internet doesn’t give you the content you need, you may need to take a trip to your county’s recorder’s office. All of an association’s recorded documents will be filed there. Some states may require you to create an account, and pay a fee to get a printed version of the document.
Reviewing rules before buying
Ask your real estate agent
If you are in the process of purchasing a home that belongs to an HOA, you need to review the rules before you buy the property. You don’t want to find out that rentals are not allowed, or that you can’t have pets, after you’ve already purchased your home.
You should be able to receive governing documents from your real estate agent (if you have one) or from the title company handling the purchase and sale transaction.
Request documents directly from the HOA
If you do not have a real estate agent, then you should attempt to get in touch with the association personally. Make a phone call or write a letter to request information about monthly HOA fees, special assessments, meeting minutes, etc., along with the association’s governing documents.
Finding rules as an HOA member
Make a request to the board or property manager
Owners have a right to inspect and copy the records of the association. State laws may dictate which documents members can inspect, how they must make a request for the items, whether and how much the association can charge for copies, and what recourse owners have if the board refuses to comply with a reasonable request.
Check the HOA’s website
Some states have actually mandated that HOAs must have a website, and have up-to-date documents readily available on the site. That’s how important it is for owners to have access to information from and about their association. If your HOA has a website, there’s a good chance that you will be able to review the rules there. Usually, there will be a password-protected section available only to owners or people with the password. This is a smart and safe way to make information available on-demand while keeping sensitive data away from the general public.
Check your owner/resident account
If your association uses software or some form of portal to communicate with residents, it may have a section where you can access important files, forms and documents.
Condo Control, for example, has a document storage feature that owners can explore using a computer or a smartphone. The board or management creates files and sets permissions, giving them the ability to customize and organize. Owners can find rules in seconds using the helpful search bar. This system works wonderfully for everyone.
Owners who regularly review or check their HOAs rules are far less likely to commit a rule infraction. Having this information available enables them to be productive and respectful. Associations should do their best to make rules easily accessible to every owner. That may mean having physical copies of documents available for distribution, as well as publishing rules online.