Living in a Homeowners Association

If you live in the Phoenix area it is most likely you either live in a homeowners association, or have lived in an association. If you don’t fit in either of these categories many would call you lucky. But what does it really mean t live in an association and how does it affect your legal rights.

The first question to ask, is what truly is a homeowners association. The association is an organization consisting of all of the property owners in a development. The association is typically governed by a Board that makes decisions about your property and the other properties in your association.

Before you purchased your property certain restrictions were placed upon your property that will control what you can do with your property. These are typically called “Declarations of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions,” better known as the CC&R’s. These CC&R’s require every owner of the property to be a member of the community association and abide by the associations documents. Such documents consist not only of the CC&R’s, but also the articles of incorporation (if the association is incorporated), by-laws, rules and regulations and the architectural or design guidelines established by the association.

If you live in an association one of the most important things you can do is read the documents before you sign.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE ASSOCIATION?

The purpose of the association is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community and it’s members. In other words, to maintain or increase property values of it’s members and to protect the assets of the association. The association, through it’s board, is responsible for enforcement of the CC&Rs.

WHO IS THE BOARD?

The board are the directors of the association elected annually by it’s members. (The exception is during the initial development years in which the developer or declarant is usually in control of the board.) Therefore, members of the association can control how the association operates by electing those individuals to the board who have their same interests on how the community is to be maintained.

WHAT CAN I OR CAN’T I DO TO MY PROPERTY?

First and foremost you need to read the association documents. Even if it appears to be a tedious boring task, it is critical to do so. Although the CC&R’s are the foundation in which the association operates, the architectural and design guidelines usually control the esthetics of the community and what you can or cannot do to your home or lot.

Before you can change anything on the exterior of your home or lot you must (in almost all cases) submit your plans and/or specifications for architectural approval prior to making changes. This includes changing the paint color on your home. Although slightly more restrictive, this is equivalent to submitting plans to a city for a “building permit.” Usually this is the most controversial subject when living in a community.

When you purchase a home or lot within a community association you should expect that the esthetics of the community would stay the same or improve. You would not expect it to deteriorate and cause a loss of value to the community as a whole. In order to live in this type of community there needs to be a sense of cooperation among all the members of the community.

WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE SOME OF THE RULES?

The best thing you can do if you do not like certain rules or who the association is being managed is to get involved. You should attend regular board meetings, volunteer for a committee, run for the board, and present solutions to the board. This may not completely solve your problems, but it will allow your voice to be heard. Remember the association is run by the board. If you are a part of the board you have a voice in the association.

WHAT CAN I DO IF I AM NOT HAPPY LIVING IN A COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION?

First, re-examine why you purchased your home or lot within a community association. If it is not what you expected, then see if you can help change the way the association operates. This can be done only by taking an active role in your community association. If you are willing to leave it up to others, then you must live with the results, good or bad.

Second, you should contact your neighbors and see if they have the same feelings. A well organized group can accomplish more than an individual acting alone. Without support from other members of your association, you may be considered a trouble-maker or just an unhappy owner.

If all else fails and you are still unhappy with the association, maybe it’s just not for you. Not everyone wants to live in a community with rules and regulations or guidelines. Maybe it is time for you to move on to an environment more to your liking.

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