Homeownership comes with a myriad of benefits, but it also brings a set of responsibilities, particularly when you are part of a Homeowners Association (HOA). The board of directors for the association maintains the integrity and value of a community by establishing HOA regulations that protect resident’s investment as a homeowner. These rules provide a standard structure for all residents to follow, helping your association run more effectively and keeping your community safe. As a board member, it is crucial to understand how to establish regulations that benefit the community.

What are HOA regulations?

Establishing effective HOA rules and regulationsHOA regulations, also known as rules or guidelines, are established by the HOA to govern the conduct and activities of residents within a community. These regulations aim to maintain a certain standard of living, protect property values, and create a harmonious environment. The specific regulations can vary widely between different associations.

How do you establish HOA rules and regulations?

When drafting rules, fairness, and consideration for the community are crucial. Rules are created through amendments made by the board, but they must not override governing documents, municipal codes, or state laws. Instead, they should focus on enhancing safety, property value, and community maintenance without intruding on residents' personal lives. While the board can generally create rules without resident approval, input from residents through meetings is recommended.

How do I find local homeowners association rules and regulations?

You can typically find your homeowners association rules or regulations in a few key places.
  1. Check your closing documents:

    If you've recently purchased a home within an HOA-managed community, review your closing documents. The seller or real estate agent should provide you with a copy of the HOA's governing documents, which often include the rules and regulations.
  2. Contact your management company:

    Many HOAs are managed by professional management companies. Contact the management company associated with your community and request a copy of the community's rules and regulations. They can provide you with the most up-to-date information.
  3. Visit the HOA website:

    Many HOAs maintain a website that includes important information for residents. Check the official website of your HOA for documents such as bylaws, covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R), and other rules. Important announcements and meeting minutes may also be available on the website.
  4. Attend HOA meetings:

    Attend local HOA meetings if they are open to residents. These meetings are an opportunity to learn more about the community rules and upcoming changes and to voice any concerns or questions you may have.
  5. Local county recorder's office:

    In some cases, the governing documents of an HOA may be recorded with the county recorder's office. Visit the county recorder's office or check their online database to see if you can access the relevant information.
  6. Ask your neighbors:

    Reach out to your neighbors, especially those who have been living in the community for an extended period. They may have insights into the homeowners association rules and regulations and can share their experiences.

    Remember to carefully review the governing documents, including CC&Rs, bylaws, and any other rules that may apply to your community. These documents outline the rights and responsibilities of homeowners and provide details on issues such as architectural guidelines, fees, and dispute resolution processes. If you encounter difficulties or have specific questions, don't hesitate to reach out directly to the HOA or its management company for clarification.

What kind of HOA regulations do boards implement in communities the most?

A board creates rules and regulations for safety and maintenance and addresses issues within the community. The more common rules that boards create or modify are rules that regulate parking guidelines, trash and recycling, pet restrictions, decoration and maintenance standards, and home occupancy and rental restrictions. Often, rules can pertain to new regulations regarding safety protocols for amenities and community areas like pools and gyms.

A board can pass four different types of resolutions:
  • Policy Resolutions – These resolutions affect owners’ rights and obligations, usually about common areas, recreational areas, enforcement, and architectural guidelines. Boards should seek community input before voting on them.
  • Administrative Resolutions – Resolutions that encompass the board’s operations and pertain to meetings, finances, and other administrative functions.
  • Special Resolutions – These resolutions address specific policies, particular violations, and exemptions.
  • General Resolutions – Resolutions that address board decisions regarding routine procedures like budget and contract approvals.
While it is essential to create new rules, it’s also smart to revisit old rules and regulations to make sure that they still serve their intended purpose and still apply today. Your community is constantly evolving, and part of the board’s responsibility is to make sure that the rules continue to meet the needs of the community. Sometimes state laws will change the community’s need for specific rules, or an emergency will spur the need for a regulation to be implemented. It is best to revisit your rules and regulations annually to review that they are still relevant and not outdated. Board rules may be added to, amended, or repealed at any time by the board of directors.

Communicate changes to HOA regulations

When establishing new regulations for your community, be clear and concise when communicating with residents. Educating residents is key to getting them to comply and follow the new rules.
When it comes to communicating with residents, the board should:
  • Clearly state the reason for setting the new policy
  • Explain what new rules entail
  • Explain how they will be enforced
  • Enforce them consistently
Communicate to all residents via multiple channels like email, message boards in common areas, the community’s newsletter, social media, and even mail.

Though people don’t usually think of new rules as exciting, sometimes a rule change means that residents have access to more parking or can do more extensive landscaping. It is essential to keep residents in the loop about new regulations because not only does it help them to be compliant, but it also can help with community engagement and resident satisfaction.

Enforce your HOA regulations

While most residents will comply with policies, it is important to remember that every community has a small percentage of compliance issues. That is why it is essential to draft a detailed enforcement plan that lays out what steps will be taken if a resident violates a regulation. That includes initial warnings, written notices, fines and legal next steps so that residents understand the process and the penalties for breaking the rules.

Enforcing the rules is key to maintaining the property’s value and the residents’ safety, so make sure that the community enforces them consistently. It is crucial to be fair when drafting new regulations, and it is equally important to enforce them fairly. That means that violations are dealt with the same way across the board, and there should be no preferential treatment to any residents.

However, there are some cases where exceptions can be made. Boards should review all violations on a case-by-case basis and pass a special resolution if necessary. For example, suppose a community doesn’t allow dogs over a certain weight. In that case, they may pass a special resolution to allow a service dog that exceeds the weight limitation in their pet policy. A board must consider all violations individually to determine if exemptions should be made.

Is there any way to get around HOA rules?

Homeowners Associations (HOAs) typically have rules and regulations in place to maintain community standards, aesthetics, and the overall well-being of the neighborhood. While it's essential to respect and adhere to these rules as a member of the community, there are a few potential avenues for addressing concerns or seeking changes:
  1. Review governing documents:

    Carefully review the HOA's governing documents, including the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws. Understanding the specific rules and guidelines will help you navigate any concerns you may have.
  2. Participate in HOA Meetings:

    Attend HOA meetings and actively participate in discussions. This provides an opportunity to express concerns, propose changes, or seek clarification on certain rules. Engaging with the community and the board can help build understanding and foster open communication.
  3. Propose Amendments:

    Some HOAs allow residents to propose amendments to the governing documents. If there is a specific rule you find restrictive or disagree with, you can work with other homeowners to propose an amendment. This process often involves gathering support from a certain percentage of homeowners and may require a vote.
  4. Seek legal advice:

    If you believe a particular rule is unfair or violates your rights, consult with a real estate attorney. Legal professionals can provide guidance on whether there are grounds to challenge specific rules and help you understand your options within the bounds of the law.
  5. Engage in dialogue:

    Communicate with your board of directors, management company, or neighbors to discuss your concerns. Sometimes, misunderstandings can be resolved through open dialogue, and compromises may be reached that satisfy both the homeowner and the community.
  6. Explore dispute resolution procedures:

    Many HOAs have established dispute-resolution procedures. If you find yourself in disagreement with a particular rule, follow the prescribed process for dispute resolution outlined in the governing documents. This may involve mediation or arbitration to find a resolution.

    It's important to note that attempting to circumvent or ignore HOA rules without following proper procedures can lead to consequences, including fines or other penalties. Respectful communication and collaboration with the association and fellow homeowners are often the most effective ways to address concerns and work toward changes within the community. If you are considering challenging specific rules, seeking legal advice early in the process can provide you with a clear understanding of your options and potential outcomes.

Does local law supersede HOA rules?

In general, local laws supersede Homeowners Association (HOA) rules. Local laws, including state and municipal laws, set the legal framework within which all organizations, including HOAs, must operate. However, the relationship between local laws and HOA rules can vary, and there are certain considerations to keep in mind:
  1. Compliance with applicable laws:

    HOA rules must be in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal laws. If there is a conflict between a local law and an HOA rule, the local law typically takes precedence.
  2. Enforcement of local zoning laws:

    Local zoning laws, building codes, and land-use regulations are generally enforced by local government authorities. HOA rules must align with these laws, and homeowners must adhere to both sets of regulations.
  3. Fair Housing Laws:

    HOAs are subject to federal fair housing laws, which prohibit discrimination in housing based on factors such as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. HOA rules cannot violate these anti-discrimination laws.
  4. Landlord-Tenant Laws:

    In communities where there are rental properties, landlords and tenants are subject to local landlord-tenant laws. HOA rules must be consistent with these laws, and landlords are responsible for ensuring that their rental properties comply.
  5. Legal Challenge:

    Homeowners have the right to challenge HOA rules that may conflict with local laws. If a homeowner believes that an HOA rule violates their legal rights or is in conflict with local laws, they may choose to seek legal advice and potentially challenge the rule.

    While local laws take precedence over HOA regulations, it's essential to note that associations have the authority to establish and enforce rules within the legal framework. Homeowners typically agree to abide by these rules when purchasing property in an HOA-managed community. If there are concerns about potential conflicts, consulting with legal professionals can help navigate the complexities and find appropriate resolutions.


Establishing HOA rules is a delicate balance that requires a foundation in common sense and a commitment to problem-solving. The success of these regulations hinges on their ability to enhance the community, prioritize safety, and contribute to increased property value. It is imperative for boards to ensure fairness and consider the collective well-being of residents when drafting rules. Importantly, these regulations should complement existing governing documents, municipal codes, and state laws rather than supersede them. By maintaining a focus on community improvement without encroaching on personal lives, HOAs can foster a harmonious living environment.

For more information about HOA regulations and how a professional management company can support your community, contact FirstService Residential today.

Tuesday January 23, 2024