Homeowner associations (HOAs) and condominium associations (COAs) have many rules. As an HOA/COA manager, enforcing these rules is part of your job. Your clients may also ask you to act as a consultant when they revise the association’s rules or create new ones. As a professional association manager, you have valuable insight into the types of rules that help a community thrive.
But what types of rules can homeowner associations regulate? Unlike an apartment complex with renters, the membership of an HOA/COA consists of property owners. This means residents have different legal rights. When someone buys property in a community that has an association, they agree to follow the association’s rules and regulations.
Residents will receive a copy of these rules and regulations before they buy their property. However, they may have questions about the rules or ask for clarification. Helping residents understand and follow the rules is one of your responsibilities as the HOA/COA manager. From time to time, you may also be responsible for issuing new documents as the association updates its community guidelines.
To help your clients run a great association, you’ll want to understand the type of rules an HOA/COA can legally regulate. Every association is different. Rules will vary based on the community’s membership, as well as state or local laws. However, the following categories often fall under the HOA/COA’s authority.
Most HOA/COAs have common areas shared by all residents. Depending on the size of the association, common areas can be as small as a mailroom or as large as a private park. The HOA/COA may include a laundry room, swimming pool, tennis courts, gyms, or multi-purpose rooms for events.
Because these areas are open to everyone in the association, it’s the HOA/COA’s job to set the rules. This can include hours of operation, as well as specific rules about using the space. For example, a swimming pool will have rules about how many people can be in the pool at a given time. Make sure you know the rules for each common space so you can enforce them as needed.
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An association can also regulate noise levels for the community. This is one of the many reasons why people choose to live in an HOA/COA rather than an unregulated neighborhood. The HOA/COA can set quiet hours, ensuring there’s no loud music or other disturbances to wake people in the middle of the night. Often, quiet hours are different on weekends and holidays.
Sometimes, noise restrictions are generalized, such as no loud noises after 10 pm on weeknights. Other times, the rules specify decibel levels. A decibel is a measure of noise that can be determined by using a device called a decibel meter. Some HOA/COA managers carry decibel meters to determine when a resident is violating quiet hours.
Although all homes in an HOA/COA are owned by individual residents, the association has the power to regulate certain aspects of architecture and construction. For example, the HOA/COA can set restrictions on exterior paint colors, roofing materials, and porch design. The association can also require residents to gain approval from the board before doing construction on their homes.
As an HOA/COA manager, you’ll assist your clients by helping residents file paperwork or schedule meetings with board members about architectural changes or upgrades. You will also look out for illegal construction within the community and report any unauthorized building to your clients.
Similarly, an association can set rules about landscaping. This will be different for every community. Some associations only require residents to make sure their yards are well-kept, while others have very specific guidelines about the types of plants and flowers they can have. Certain plants may be prohibited for aesthetic or environmental reasons.
Make sure you understand the HOA’s/COA’s rules about landscaping so you can help enforce them. You also need to be available to answer questions from the residents. Landscaping rules can be a common source of misinformation or confusion.
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Depending on the association, there may be different rules regarding pet ownership. This can include the types of animals residents are allowed to have. For example, the HOA/COA may allow dogs, but only if they’re under 10 pounds.
The HOA/COA can also limit the number of pets per household and enforce guidelines about cleanup, spaying and neutering, vaccinations, and animal noise. Familiarize yourself with each of your clients’ pet regulations so you can make sure residents follow the rules.
Some HOA/COAs set rules about visitors and private events. They may limit the number of people allowed at parties and set rules about visitors using common areas. Additionally, it’s common for associations to regulate the number of days guests may stay in a resident’s home. Guests who stay for an extended period of time may cause liability issues for the association.
Make sure you understand all the rules pertaining to visitors and private events in the HOA/COA communities you manage. Be available to assist residents who have questions, and monitor the community for violations.
Many associations prohibit residents from running businesses out of their homes or restrict the type of businesses that are allowed. For example, the HOA/COA may allow a freelance graphic designer to have a home office, but prohibit residents from manufacturing items for retail sale in their garage.
Often, these rules are imposed based on the city’s local zoning laws. It’s a good idea to research municipal codes for your clients so you can better assist with the enforcement of the HOA/COA’s guidelines.
Finally, the HOA/COA sets rules about resident fees. Resident fees fund the infrastructure for the association’s community, from common areas and maintenance to security. As such, the HOA/COA can set the fee amount and fee payment schedule. It can also raise fees as needed.
As the HOA/COA manager, collecting these fees is one of your main financial responsibilities. With your association accounting software, you can create an online web portal where residents can pay fees online. You can also generate a list of who has paid and who hasn’t, which will help you collect late fees more efficiently.
Using HOA/COA management software will help you enforce your clients’ rules and regulations. Try CINC Systems today and see how our association management platform streamlines your business. Request a free demo by calling (855) 943-8246.