Depending on your perspective, a Homeowner Association (HOA) can be a blessing or a curse. If you agree with the HOA’s actions, you may see the organization as necessary to ensure that everyone in the community is abiding by the rules and helping to maintain property values. However, if you disagree with your HOA or believe the governing body is inconsistently enforcing community codes, covenants, and restrictions (CC&Rs), you might view the group in a negative light. Further, HOA dues can be expensive, and having to pay them when you believe the HOA is wrong, may seem inequitable. If you are in a situation where you feel your HOA is being unfair, you may want to know: Do I still have to pay dues?
Generally speaking, HOAs are mandatory community organizations that neighborhood volunteers govern. These volunteers are elected into HOA leadership positions by HOA members. The HOA?s primary functions are to enforce CC&Rs, maintain agreed-upon community standards, and protect the property values in the neighborhood.
HOAs have the power to compel neighborhood residents to follow the CC&Rs and issue citations and fines for failing to observe community rules and restrictions. Additionally, HOA members are usually required to pay fees that are to be used to maintain features in the community and pay for neighborhood expenses. HOAs are required to fairly enforce the CC&R’s and follow the organization’s bylaws.
Unfair HOA Treatment
Depending on your situation, your HOA?s conduct may or may not be actionable. If you disagree with a newly enacted restriction on playing loud music outdoors past 10:00 p.m. on a weeknight, you may not have much recourse. However, if you believe your HOA is enforcing the CC&R?s in a way that singles you out from others in your community who are doing the same things as you, there may be an issue.
The CC&Rs and Bylaws
When you disagree with your HOA, it?s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the organization?s governing documents. These typically include the body’s Articles of Incorporation and a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions CC&R?s and bylaws. By familiarizing yourself with these documents, you can gain a clearer understanding of your HOA, its authority, and the organization’s obligations to the community.
Following the Bylaws
The rulemaking process is essential to any HOA, and the organization cannot arbitrarily decide to invent and enforce rules. HOAs must follow their own bylaws before imposing a new requirement on their members. There is also supposed to be transparency during the rulemaking process. Finding out how closely the organization’s leadership is observing the bylaws can help you determine your next step.
Applying the Rules Equally
Even if your HOA has followed its bylaws and correctly adopted the community CC&Rs, it’s unacceptable for these requirements to be applied in a discriminatory manner. HOAs are bound by the Fair Housing Act and federal anti-discrimination laws. If you are being subjected to citations and fines when others engaging in the same violations are not, you should contact an experienced Arizona real estate attorney as soon as possible to review your case.
Paying Fines and Dues
When you purchased your home, you signed an agreement to pay your HOA dues. This is an enforceable contract, and failure to pay can result in a breach and the HOA having the right to take you to court. It is possible to lose your property over unpaid dues. Therefore, it’s usually in your best interests to continue making payments while an HOA dispute is being evaluated. Fines are another matter. The HOA can fine you for CC&R violations, but they cannot take your home if you don’t pay them. However, the organizations can take you to court, and it may be better to pay the fines now and seek recovery later. Before taking action, you should discuss any fines that you believe have been unfairly imposed with an Arizona real estate attorney.
Work with an Arizona Real Estate Attorney
Problems between HOAs and homeowners often start with the initial HOA agreement. When a buyer locates their perfect home, they don?t always evaluate the HOA document closely at the time of the real estate transaction. However, it’s worth taking the time to assess any legally-binding agreement. You will have to observe HOA rules and pay fees for as long as you reside in your home. The amount you will pay and the rules you must follow will matter. You should work with an Arizona real estate attorney to review the HOA agreement and help you evaluate its terms.
If you are having issues with your HOA, you should meet with an experienced Arizona real estate attorney who can help you review any signed agreements and evaluate your obligations.? Your real estate attorney can also help you assess the situation and review your options.
Laura B. Bramnick is an Arizona real estate attorney with the knowledge and experience you need to protect your interests during every stage of your real estate matter. If you are seeking an exceptional, client-driven real estate lawyer in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Sedona, and throughout the State of Arizona, contact Laura B. Bramnick to schedule your consultation.