What are the Homeowner’s Rights Against the HOA?

One of the main reasons to join a homeowners association is to preserve your property values, protecting your own rights as a real estate investor. In joining the HOA, you’re submitting to the association’s approach to governance, including rules, regulations, and other restrictions, along with routine dues and assessments.

But if belonging to the HOA means abiding by certain rules, it also means recognizing your own rights as a homeowners. Indeed, members have a number of rights that the association may not infringe upon. It’s crucial for homeowners to be aware of these rights, especially those serving on Board positions.

One way to better understand homeowners rights is to ask your community management company. If you live in the Carolinas, don’t hesitate to inquire with Kuester Management Group. Our team has a proven track record as an  HOA management company in Charlotte NC, Huntersville NC, and Myrtle Beach SC, along with providing HOA management in Fort Mill SC.

We are happy to address any concerns you have about upholding the rights of each owner within your HOA. In the meantime, here are a few general guidelines to keep in mind.

Homeowner Rights: 8 Things the HOA Cannot Do

To begin with, it is important to know that there are certain actions that HOA Boards may not take against homeowners. Here are some of the big no-nos for HOA Boards to avoid.

1) Discriminate Against Homeowners

First and foremost, an HOA may not take any kind of discriminatory action against a member or a potential member. Full compliance with the Fair Housing Act is required, which means the HOA cannot discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, color, family status, national origin, sex, disability, or religion.

What constitutes as discrimination? Any of the following actions:

  • Preventing someone from buying a house within the community.
  • Imposing unfair or prejudicial fines.
  • Evicting homeowners because they belong to one of the protected classes.

Note that in some states the list of protected classes may be more extensive than the federal government’s list. It’s always wise to double check local or state laws, perhaps by enlisting your HOA attorney.

2) Impose Arbitrary Fines

The HOA has every right to impose financial penalties on its members, particularly in events where the homeowner has violated one of the community’s covenants and conditions. However, these fines must be reasonable and justified. There typically needs to be some record of an attempted conflict resolution process. And fines can only be imposed on the basis of rules that are officially part of the HOA’s constitution, not random grievances that the Board makes up on the fly.

3) Make Up Impulsive New Rules

When you serve on the HOA Board, you do have some authority to suggest changes to the standing rules. However, the Board cannot make up new rules based on impulse or whim. They must follow the formal process for changing the rules, which may involve giving advance notice to the community and/or having a vote. Wily-nily rule changes are a violation of homeowner rights. 

4) Prevent Homeowners from Complaining

Simply put, homeowners have the right to voice their complaints or their criticisms of the HOA’s actions. There is never a time where the Board can stifle complaints or keep homeowners from having their voice heard.

Do keep in mind that there are certain policies in place for airing complaints. Homeowners may follow the formal complaint process, or they may attend any open homeowners associations meetings to articulate their frustrations. The Board does not have any right to stifle dissenters, no matter how much friction it causes.

5) Holding Meetings without Proper Notice

Many homeowner associations are required to provide advance notice before they hold any meetings. This may even include sudden meetings that the Board must call to address emergency matters. The amount of notice you must provide can vary according to the state you’re in, so again, it may be worth talking with your HOA attorney to understand specifics. But as a basic rule of thumb: If your HOA Board is going to meet, homeowners have a right to know about it, and to have at least a little time to make arrangements to attend.

6) Preventing Homeowner Lawsuits

Homeowners have the right to bring a lawsuit against their HOA. Usually, these legal charges are brought when the association has violated its fiduciary duties.

The HOA may require certain procedures before a lawsuit can be filed; for instance, there may be an expectation for homeowners to enter into a conflict resolution process. But at the end of the day, if the issue is not dealt with, the association cannot prevent homeowners from bringing charges.

7) Forbidding Native Plants

The HOA can 100 percent ban particular plants, and pass other policies that govern backyard space. However, HOAs cannot ban the trees or bushes that are indigenous to the area.

8) Prohibiting Solar Drying

Here’s another simple one: Homeowners have the right to dry their clothes and bed sheets on a clothesline. The HOA cannot prohibit this, no matter how much they think it mars the aesthetics of the community.

What Happens When the Board is Not Doing its Job?

On a more general note, homeowners should expect their Board members to do their job, to uphold the rules of the community, and to help maintain property values. If the Board is not doing its job, then homeowners have the right to take action against them. The question is, what would this action look like?

There are multiple forms of conflict resolution. Typically, the process looks like this:

  • Homeowners should first go to their Board directly, asking for an explanation. In some cases, there may be a simple misunderstanding that can be easily resolved through a basic dialogue or hearing.
  • If this does not work, homeowners may ask about the formal conflict resolution process. This may also mean reaching out to the community management company.
  • If none of these measures work, that may be a sign that it is time to take legal action. However, legal action should always be a last resort.

With any additional questions about upholding homeowner rights within your community association, reach out to your management company. Kuester Management Group is here to answer any questions you may have about your rights against the HOA Board of Directors.

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Bryan Kuester

Bryan Kuester

Bryan is the CEO of Kuester Management Group. He has over 15 years of managing community associations throughout North and South Carolina.

His specialties include Community Association Management - maintenance, budgeting for operational and reserve funding, long-range planning, covenant enforcement, amenity management, onsite management, large scale management.