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What is  a Homeowner Association (HOA)?

A homeowners association is the governing body for your planned unit development. All owners automatically become members of the HOA, and your purchase is a contract to pay a fee and abide by all the HOA rules. These rules are called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). The CC&Rs can restrict such things as how many cars you can park, whether you can own a pet or the size and number of pets, noise and other disturbances, satellite TV installations, and even whether you can display flags on your dwelling.
In return for the restrictions, HOAs generally provide such amenities as landscaping, snow removal, pools and recreation areas, and common area repairs.

What are the governing documents?

The term “governing documents” is used as a general reference to the entire group of legally recognized paperwork that creates and controls a condominium project or planned development. The governing documents typically include a subdivision map and/or condominium plan, a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (or "CC&Rs"), Articles of Incorporation (if the project is incorporated), Bylaws, and Rules.

What is in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (sometimes called simply the “Declaration” or the “CC&Rs”)?

CC&Rs describe the rights and obligations of the homeowners association and of each owner. CC&Rs are recorded with the county recorder of the county where the property is located, and automatically bind anyone who becomes and owner of the property after the CC&Rs are recorded. CC&Rs vary widely in content and length, but usually cover the following topics:

  • The boundaries of the common area and of each unit or lot;
  • The owner usage restrictions, typically including occupancy limitations, pet regulations, and alteration controls;
  • The maintenance responsibilities of the association and the individual owners;
  • The allocation of association operating costs among the owners, and the mechanism for collecting owner payments;
  • The insurance requirements for the association and each owner;
  • The dispute resolution procedure; and
  • The rights and protection of mortgage lenders.

CC&Rs are required for all condominiums and planned developments. They are prepared by the developer’s attorney, reviewed by a government agency (unless the project has fewer than five units or lots), and recorded with the county at the time a condominium project or planned development is formed.

How can the CC&Rs be changed or amended?

The CC&Rs is the most difficult of the governing documents to amend. In general, any amendment to the CC&Rs must be approved by a vote of the owners. An owner vote to amend the CC&Rs must be held using statutory secret balloting procedures (designed to protect the anonymity of each vote) and an inspector of elections.

There is usually a section of the CC&Rs that states the percentage of owner votes required to adopt a CC&R amendment, and often the required percentage varies depending on which part of the CC&Rs is being amended. For our HOA, the CC&Rs must have at least 67% of the owners to  approve an amendment or change.  

There are a few types of CC&R amendments that can be adopted by the board of directors without an owner vote. The board can amend the CC&Rs to delete provisions that illegally discriminate against or harass any person because of the race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, or genetic information. The board can also amend the CC&Rs to delete provisions that were intended to facilitate the developer in completing the construction or marketing of the development after the developer has completed construction and marketing, and to delete references to sections of law that no longer exist or have been renumbered. Special procedures apply when the board is amending the CC&Rs on its own, and these procedures differ depending on what type of amendment the board is adopting.

Where the CC&Rs require that an amendment be approved by more than 50% of the owners, and the owners association is unable to get the votes needed to adopt the amendment, it is possible to petition a court to amend the CC&Rs without the required number of owner votes; however, a court will not grant such a petition unless there is a good reason to ignore the voting requirement spelled out in the CC&Rs.

Once a CC&R amendment has been approved, it must be recorded in the records of the county where the property is located. A CC&R amendment that has not been recorded in the county records is not valid.