Homeowners Legal Rights in HOA Communities

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HOA Laws, Regulations, Rules, Resources & Information

A homeowner’s association (HOA) is a legal entity of sorts in that both homeowners and board members have certain legal rights outlined in the community’s governing documents. As a homeowner, it’s essential to know your rights so you can enjoy your home as much as you can while still enjoying the benefits an HOA delivers. Likewise, as a board member, you need to know those rights so your relationship with residents remains friction-free.

Here are some things you should know about.

Standard Homeowner Rights

Property owners have a collection of pretty standard rights no matter where the HOA is. The legal rights include:

  • Right of Possession – The titleholder to the property is the legal homeowner.
  • Right of Control – Homeowners may use their property as they please so long as it’s legal and is in accordance with HOA rules and regulations.
  • Right of Enjoyment – The property owner can engage in any lawful activity they deem pleasurable.
  • Right of Exclusion – Barring a warrant or court order, the homeowner can determine who is and is not allowed to enter their home. Note that utility workers may still be granted access to the property as necessary.
  • Right of Disposition – The property owner may transfer ownership of their property to another person. However, if a lien exists on the property, the new owner will have to pay it.

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Additional Homeowner Rights

Homeowners also have the following rights HOA board members should keep firmly in mind.

  • Right to change HOA rules and regulations. Homeowners can exercise options to add, remove, or revise specific rules and regulations and the board must accept this. Often this is done to remove or change practices seen as discriminatory, outdated, or unfair. Ensure the accepted procedures for proposing and enacting rule changes laid out by the HOA governing documents and ensure they are following state and local law.
  • Right to question fees and special assessments. Homeowners have a right to challenge sudden changes to monthly HOA fees or special assessments. This may involve some level of financial oversight to ensure the money is being used appropriately.
  • Right to access financial reports and HOA documents. Homeowners may request access to documents such as financial reports, budget reports, vendor contracts, board meeting agendas, board meeting minutes, membership lists, tax returns, and any governing documents. Note that these requests may need to be made in writing and cover copying and postage costs.
  • Right to be heard. If an HOA takes disciplinary action against a homeowner, such as imposing fines or suspending privileges, homeowners have the right to a fair hearing.
  • Right to sue HOA board members. If a homeowner feels a board member has exceeded their authority or is making unfair decisions, they have a right to file a suit against that board member.
  • Right to reasonable accommodations for disabilities. HOAs must follow the Fair Housing Act and homeowners with disabilities have a right to request reasonable accommodations, including wheelchair ramps and service animals.
  • Right to not be discriminated against. As per the Fair Housing Act, HOAs may not deny housing, apply rules selectively, or take any action based on discrimination. This includes board decisions based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status, disability, or other protected classes.

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Other Rights To Know

The following rights are no less important than any other rights listed here and should not be forgotten.

  • Right to display flags and political signs. According to the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, homeowners cannot display the American flag. The HOA may place limits on the location and height of the flagpole and may require homeowners to file a request before installing a flagpole on their property. Regarding political signs, these rules may vary from state to state. Some states ban HOAs from prohibiting political signs but may impose restrictions on number, size, and how long they can be displayed.
  • Right to solar panels and satellite dishes on roofs. According to the FCC’s Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule, homeowners may place solar panels, antennas, and satellite dishes on their roof so long as the device is under a meter in height. Keep in mind, though, that HOA boards may be able to place restrictions on placement.
  • Right to outdoor sun drying. Many HOAs prohibit solar using a clothesline to dry clothes outside because it can affect the uniform look of a community. However, if your HOA is in a state with a Right to Dry law, the board cannot ban solar drying.
  • Right to native plants. In some parts of the country, HOAs are not permitted to prohibit residents from growing or planting native plants. Check local statutes to see if this applies to your state.

Who Regulates HOAs In North Carolina?

There are no government agencies on the state or federal level charged with overseeing HOAs. That said, HOAs must still follow North Carolina law. The North Carolina Planned Community Act outlines requirements for communities such as HOAs and defines many of the terms and limits involved. If you have any questions about your HOA either as a homeowner or board member, you should consult with an experienced attorney in your area.

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Can an HOA Evict a Homeowner?

HOAs cannot evict homeowners the same way a landlord might evict a tenant, as homeowners have more rights because they are the property owner. Just the same, homeowners in an HOA agree to abide by the association’s rules and bylaws when purchasing the property. This includes paying fines and other disciplinary action when applicable. Failure to pay fines could result in the HOA foreclosing on the property.

Ideally, the HOA would rather solve a conflict amicably than get to the point of foreclosure.

Respecting the Rights of Homeowners

Respecting the rights of property owners is not only the right thing to do but is also one of the best ways to protect the wellbeing of your community. As much as board members might be protected from personal liability, homeowners also have legal rights and protections. If everyone makes an effort to remain respectful, the community will be more enjoyable for everyone.

If you have further questions about your rights or responsibilities as a homeowner or board member, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced HOA management company or attorney experienced in HOA matters.