Amending an HOA’s covenants and bylaws

First off, covenants, conditions, and restrictions or CC&Rs aren’t the same as bylaws, although a lot of people confuse the two as being one and the same. To clarify, CC&Rs are the rules and regulations that the HOA and homeowners must follow. These documents define the obligations of the homeowners association towards its members, and the members’ rights and responsibilities as part of the HOA.

Bylaws, on the other hand, basically cover the community as an entity and under this, you can find regulations concerning the HOA’s Board of Directors from the number of directors that can be on the Board to qualifications of homeowners who can serve on the Board.

The process of amending bylaws and covenants should be initiated by the Board of the Directors or any of its members. Here are a few things homeowners should know about making changes on the covenants and/or bylaws:

1. The purpose should be clearly communicated

First of all, covenants and bylaws shouldn’t be amended on a whim. There should be a clear purpose for it, and this purpose should serve the greater good of the community and the homeowners. Secondly, such undertaking should be shared to the homeowners. It will not do the HOA good if the homeowners learn about this through hearsay or worse, after the changes have been made and implementation of the changes is already underway.

Homeowners associations should also be transparent about their actions and activities.

2. Changes are usually undertaken to amend outdated laws

There are several reasons why an HOA Board may decide to amend its covenants or bylaws, but usually, it’s because some stipulations have become outdated or federal/state laws have changed and these must be applied to the HOA’s existing CC&Rs and/or bylaws.

There are also instances when covenants were amended because of an issue raised by majority of the homeowners. Issues may include lifting of restrictions on exterior paint or landscaping, or other such limitations.

3. Covenants have expired

Covenants have an expiration date although some HOAs may have overlooked this little bit of fact because the validity of HOA covenants is usually 30 years. If a board member is interested in amending the HOA’s covenants, they should look into the covenant’s expiration date; and if a homeowner wishes to check if an HOA’s restriction is valid, they should likewise research on their HOA’s covenant expiry.

For more on HOA CC&Rs and bylaws, you may visit our community news page.

Understanding HOA Dissolution: What Every Homeowner Should Know

There are various reasons why a homeowners association may get dissolved, and the process to start its dissolution may be initiated by either the Board itself, one its members, or by a homeowner. In general, a homeowners association or HOA is established to look after the welfare of its homeowners and oversee the upkeep and safety of the community. So why would anyone within that community ever want it dissolved?

Here’s what every homeowner should know about HOA dissolution:

1. It’s a process that should abide by federal laws and HOA covenants

Understand that dissolving an HOA is a long and tedious process, which means that if the Board initiated the move, they are likely aware that dissolution could take time. They should also be aware that such an act should be done within the legal bounds of federal laws as well as the HOA’s own covenants and by-laws.

If any homeowner is against the dissolution of the HOA, this is the time to research their rights as a member of the community. It is likewise advised they seek the assistance of a licensed attorney.

2. Dissolution must be voted on by the community

Unless the dissolution was ordered by the state for whatever legal reason, dissolving a homeowners association requires the participation of the homeowners. In general, the vote to dissolve should comprise at least 80% of the community. When the ballot to vote for its dissolution has been approved by the Board, it is important that every homeowner participate because the result will directly affect them.

3. When approved, the Board should clearly communicate succeeding steps

If the dissolution has been approved, the Board must clearly communicate to the homeowners the steps they will undertake for the smooth transition. This means they must present to the homeowner documents stating where the common funds are and how they will be used, what happens to the common areas and who will oversee their maintenance, and other such important matters.

Homeowners should also find out if the dissolution of the HOA means the community will no longer be under the jurisdiction of any HOA or if a new one will be formed.

If you wish to learn more about homeowners associations, please feel free to browse our blog page. You may also visit the community news page for more information on California homeowners associations, from covenants and by-laws to HOA management and more.

4 Skills Every Board Member Needs

The success of a homeowners association (HOA) depends on the HOA board’s ability to manage its community. In other words, for a community to thrive, the HOA board members must possess the skills that’ll allow them to improve the quality of life in the community.

While there are currently no state laws governing who can or can’t become an HOA board member, many HOAs have bylaws requiring candidates to possess certain skills before they can be eligible for a seat on the board. With that in mind, here are 4 skills you’ll need if you want to become an HOA board member.

1. Communication

Serving on the board means being in constant communication with fellow board members, the HOA manager, community members, and vendors. Therefore, it’s essential to have strong interpersonal skills if you want to become a board member. This includes being proficient in both written and oral communication.

2. Computer proficiency

The use of computers allows for the efficient management of the community. As you’ll be writing emails, attending or hosting online meetups, and using the internet to access important information, strong computer skills are a must for a board member. Knowing how to take advantage of available technology will also let you to automate tasks and receive updates on essential details such as the collection of fees.

3. Management

Strong management skills will allow you to juggle a variety of responsibilities, from the filing of yearly taxes to the enforcement of rules. To ensure the HOA runs smoothly, you’ll also have to delegate tasks, follow administrative procedures, and manage important documents.

4. Bookkeeping and accounting knowhow

One of the most important responsibilities of the HOA board is the handling of the HOA’s finances. Expect to plan the annual budget, calculate HOA fees, stay updated on vendor payments, record all pertinent transactions, and produce financial statements to show your HOA’s fiscal condition. For these reasons, bookkeeping and accounting knowledge will serve an HOA board member extremely well.

Because all the above skills require high levels of technical expertise, many associations require a candidate for the board to have a high school diploma at the minimum. Larger HOAs may only accept college graduates.

There are also HOAs that will accept you as a board member if you’re a graduate of a local HOA management course. Make sure to take advantage of such courses, as they’re often offered by HOA agencies for free.

If you’d like more information about HOAs and HOA boards, kindly contact us through our corporate website, or give us a call at (888) 828-9444.

4 Qualifications You Need to Serve on an HOA Board

The benefits of becoming a board member of a homeowners association (HOA) are numerous. You can develop rules and regulations that improve the quality of life in the community. You can organize events that bring people together and enhance their sense of camaraderie. You can even make new friends and learn important skills that’ll help you in every aspect of your life. It’s for these reasons it’s a good idea for an HOA member to consider becoming a member of its board.

Of course, to ensure the HOA board remains competent, there are specific criteria you must meet before you can become eligible as a candidate for board membership. We list some of them below.

1. HOA membership

Because you must be a part of the community to help it, you have to be a member of the HOA if you want to join its board. In contrast to someone living outside the community, an HOA member will have a good idea of the community’s strengths and where it needs improvement the most.

2. No delinquencies or violations

A community member who pays all their association dues in a timely manner and takes great care not to violate any governing documents is someone who respects the importance of rules and regulations. As such, they make great candidates for board membership.

3. No legal troubles

Anyone currently or persistently involved in legal disputes against members of the community or the HOA board won’t be seen as responsible or trustworthy enough to handle the duties of a board member. Similarly, convicted felons will very likely be denied a seat on the board. It’s essential to have a clean record if you aim to be in a position where the betterment of the community and the enforcement of laws will be your major concerns.

4. No familial relationship with other board members

In the interest of fairness, many HOAs require candidates must not have familial ties with any of the serving board members. Being a co-owner with a board member may also be seen as an issue.

While there are currently no laws stating who can become an HOA board member, many HOA bylaws make the above qualifications a requirement for those serving on the board. Thus, having said qualifications will significantly improve your chances of becoming an HOA board member.

If you’d like to know more about HOAs and HOA boards, please contact us through our corporate website, or give us a call at (888) 828-9444.

5 Types of Noise Complaints You Can Make to Your HOA Board<

While there are many benefits to being part of a homeowners association (HOA), it could also mean living near people who produce a lot of noise. Excess noise can grow into a nuisance that impedes on your right to enjoy peace and quiet. It could even harm your mental health.

Thankfully, many HOAs have rules protecting homeowners from troublesome noise levels. Below are some examples of noise issues you can complain to your HOA board about.

1. Loud music

A neighbor who plays their favorite music at unreasonable volumes can be a source of great irritation. This is especially true when the music is blasted in the wee hours, when people are trying to get to sleep or are already sleeping.

The type of music can also be a problem. For instance, music containing profanities or other adult content can be an issue for families with small children.

2. Parties

Parties can be a lot of fun. But for the uninvited, they can be a major headache. Boisterous partygoers will sing, shout, and play loud music. They may even create all sorts of trouble unrelated to noise. It’s a good thing many HOAs have regulations against offensively loud gatherings.

3. Rambunctious dogs

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they can also be an inconvenience to neighbors. Dogs may bark at the sight of people and other animals or even join a chorus of howling. It’s much worse when they do these things early in the morning or late at night.

If you’re the owner of such dogs, it’s a good idea to have them undergo training so they’re easier to control and less likely to bark at everything.

4. Noisy vehicles

If your neighbor is a motorhead, chances are you’ve already been treated to the thunderous roar of a car engine. It’s not the most pleasant sound. As such, you have every right to complain about it.

5. Domestic disputes

This is perhaps one of the most serious types of complaints you can make to your HOA. If the people in the house next door are constantly fighting, telling your HOA board about them may prevent something worse from happening in the future, such as violence.

In most cases, matters can be solved privately by approaching your neighbor and asking them to reduce their noise levels. If you fear for your own safety, however, such as in point #5, it’s better to send the HOA board a letter of complaint or to approach them directly. You may also collaborate with fellow complainants to deliver your message to the board as a group.

If you’d like to know more about HOA noise regulations, please contact us through our corporate website, or give us a call at (888) 828-9444.

Top 3 Common Issues Homeowners Have with Their HOA

While homeowners association are established to benefit both the homeowners and the community, there are things that HOAs do that homeowners don’t agree with and vise-versa. When an HOA determines that a homeowner’s actions have violated certain stipulations in their CC&Rs, bylaws or other rules and regulations, the HOA immediately calls the attention of the homeowner. Often, there is a corresponding fine or penalty. But what about the homeowners? What can they do if they have an issue with their HOA?

First, here are some of the issues homeowners commonly complain about their HOA:

1. Increasing membership fees/dues

The HOA subsists on membership dues and other fees they may collect from the homeowners from time to time. As such, they may choose to increase HOA dues at any given time, as long as it is implemented in accordance with the HOA’s bylaws. There are times, however, when an HOA increases membership dues or charges additional fees to cover repairs (which they can actually do) without warning.

If these are within the HOA’s bylaws and deeds, there’s not much a homeowner can do except comply. However, if the majority of the homeowners agree that these are additional financial burdens they cannot shoulder, they can collectively appeal to the HOA.

2. Selective Enforcement

After fees, selective enforcement is the second most common issue homeowners have with their HOA. In a nutshell, selective enforcement means the HOA isn’t fair in its enforcement of the terms covered in the CC&Rs or bylaws and deeds. To put it another way, the HOA is playing favorites; choosing who should strictly follow the regulations and for whom they can bend the rules.

A homeowner may call the attention of the HOA board to this observation in writing first, and then a scheduled discussion after. The homeowner must have solid proof to back their claim/s, so the HOA board can take the necessary action.

3. Harassing with fines

Sometimes, HOAs charge a fine for something as unreasonable as the car parked too closely to the curb or a trampoline with an unsightly color. If the homeowner refuses to pay, they can expect to be bombarded with reminders in the mail and messages in their machine. If your HOA is harassing you to pay a fine for what you believe is an unreasonable demand, check the bylaws to see if it is within the HOA’s legal rights.

But whether or not the demand is unreasonable, the HOA should never harass the homeowner for payment. You may seek the advice of a lawyer if the harassment continues after you’ve called their attention to it.

5 Benefits of Becoming an HOA Board Member

If you’re already part of a homeowners association (HOA), it’s a good idea to attend board meetings and participate in events on a regular basis. These are essential steps you can take to become an HOA board member—a position that’ll allow you to serve your community while enhancing your own experience as a homeowner.

Here are 5 benefits of becoming an HOA board member.

1. You’ll meet new people

Joining the board will provide many opportunities to interact with your neighbors, which is helpful if you want to meet new people. Physical proximity and working together are conducive to the development of friendships, so if you want to feel like you’re truly part of the community, start attending meetings and events.

2. You can improve existing rules or make new ones

As an HOA board member, you have the power to update policies and create new ones in response to issues that have yet to be properly addressed. For instance, if there’s no rule enforcing pet owners to clean up after their dogs, you can implement such a rule to keep your community clean and safe from hazardous waste. Simply attending meetings and voicing your opinions can also help bring about necessary changes in the neighborhood.

3. You can plan social events and activities

If you feel your community can do with a bit more fun, you can plan social gatherings and activities that’ll let fellow homeowners unwind, socialize, and enjoy themselves. Parties, sports competitions, dances, movie nights, reading clubs, and more can make living in an HOA that much more rewarding. They can even strengthen the sense of belonging, which can encourage people to take better care of their community.

4. You can preserve property values

The HOA board usually monitors the upkeep and maintenance of houses, facilities, and miscellaneous amenities in the community. As a board member, you can, for example, expect to help oversee the repair of individual homes or recreational areas such as gyms and basketball courts. Taking care of such properties can go a long way in protecting or even raising their value.

5. You gain useful skills

By collaborating with others to plan events, you’ll develop a gamut of skills that’ll prove useful to you throughout life and look great on your resume. For instance, the aforementioned planning of events can exercise your administrative and communication skills. You’ll hone your ability to think critically and develop effective problem-solving strategies.

These are but some of the benefits of joining an HOA board. If you’d like to know more about HOAs and HOA boards, please contact us through our corporate website, or give us a call at (888) 828-9444.

4 Common HOA Pet Policies You Should Know if You Own Dogs

As many people consider pets family, most homeowners associations (HOAs) today welcome our furry friends into their communities. Whether you’re already part of a community and are considering getting a dog, or are looking for a dog-friendly community to call your home, know that HOAs usually have rules regarding the keeping of domestic animals.

Below, we list down some of the common dog policies an HOA may implement in their community.

1. Pet registration

Many HOAs require people to register their pets before joining the community as official homeowners. Homeowners must also submit registration prior to acquiring a pet. This allows HOAs to enforce their pet-related policies, in turn making it easier for them to keep both residents and their pets safe. For example, through registration information, an HOA will know when it’s time for a dog to get vaccinated, thereby preventing the spread of dangerous diseases such as rabies.

2. Noise complaints

Dog barking and howling can be sources of great irritation especially if they’re constant, and/or if they happen late at night or early in the morning. Some HOAs encourage homeowners to report such disturbances to the board so that its members may be able to find the solution most amenable to both pet owner and complainant. For instance, the dog may be required to undergo obedience training or be let inside the house at night.

3. Pet leashing

Certain dog breeds are extremely energetic and require regular walks to be happy and healthy. While many HOAs allow this practice, they also require pets to be leashed at all times during the walk. This is to prevent injury to homeowners and their pets, as even a non-aggressive animal may be triggered to attack. Such rules also protect your pet, as an unleashed dog may run away then get hit by a car or fail to find its way back home.

4. Waste cleanup

Dogs often use walks as an opportunity to defecate. Many HOAs require pet owners to pick up this poop and dispose of it in the nearest garbage can. This keeps the community clean, beautiful, and safe from disease spread through waste.

These are just some of the pet policies you can expect an HOA to enforce. Make sure you familiarize yourself with such rules before becoming a homeowner or acquiring a dog.

If you’d like to know more about HOAs and HOA rules, kindly contact us through our corporate website, or give us a call at (888) 828-9444.

Top 4 Things to Do If a Neighbor Complains About You

One of the best things about living in an HOA-managed community is that you have a state-regulated legal entity to keep you and your family safe, and ensure that peace is upheld amongst neighbors. You also have a legally-bound, neutral entity to turn to for disputes and complaints between neighbors.

What can you do if your neighbor filed a complaint against you?

If you were contacted by your HOA because of a complaint filed against you by your next-door neighbor, don’t fret. And try not to get angry either. Know that a complaint doesn’t immediately mean you’re guilty of whatever your neighbor is accusing of or that you will be immediately evicted from the community. Here’s what you can do if your HOA notifies you about the complaint:

1. Stay calm and composed

Once you receive word from your homeowners association about the complaint, stay calm and keep your composure. Your neighbor will probably be waiting for your knee-jerk reaction (which they could use to further fuel their complaint saying your anger is but one more proof of your guilt), so don’t give them the satisfaction of being right.

2. Review details of the complaint

The complaint should clearly state the specific issue down to the last detail (date, time, parties involved, witnesses, etc.). Back-track and review events as you remember them. It’s important here to be as clear about your recollection as possible. Write down specific details that you remember from the incident as you might be able to use these on your dispute.

3. Know your legal rights

Do your own research about your legal rights as a member of the community. Review the HOA’s CC&Rs. Research on state regulations regarding the specific issues raised by your neighbor, if applicable. To make sure too that you won’t be violating any laws or stipulations from the HOA’s by-laws and CC&Rs, consult a lawyer. If you only need general advice, there are sites online that offer free legal counsel and consultation. Check them out to see if they can help you with your specific concern/s.

4. Attend the HOA-mandated hearing of your case

The HOA will be doing its own investigation about the complaint and if they find that the complaint has merit, they will schedule a hearing, which is basically the board inviting you and the complainant to a meeting to hear both your sides. It’s important to attend every hearing because your absence could be construed as disrespect for the board and the HOA (which could be a point against you).

Filing a complaint against your HOA? Here’s what you need to do first

Filing a complaint against an HOA is not something new. In fact, it’s fairly common. However, as common as it is, you should know that complaining against a homeowners association isn’t as simple as storming the HOA office to voice out your issues. There are steps you need to take first for your own protection. Simply put, you need to make sure you are proceeding within legal boundaries to prevent a lawsuit.

If you are considering filing a complaint against your HOA, here are the initial steps you need to take:

1. Clearly identify your concerns and issues

What issues do you wish to take up with your HOA? You have to be clear about them. Remember that you are complaining against your association, which means you’re complaining against an entity that was legally put in place to oversee your community. There are laws governing its role in the community, including the role of each member of the board. With that said, you need to be specific about your concerns. Clearly state each issue and have evidence to back it up.

2. Go over your HOA by-laws and CC&Rs

As mentioned above, there are laws governing the HOA, which include rules and regulations that homeowners must abide by as well as rules and mandates that state the role of the HOA Board and its specific members. Carefully go over these by-laws and CC&Rs to ensure that your issues and concerns against the HOA are indeed within their duties and responsibilities. For instance, if your issue is something that concerns a public amenity like a park or community pool, you have to check if the specific issue is indeed the responsibility of the HOA. Sometimes there are specific stipulations that prevent an HOA from taking action.

3. Are you complaining against the HOA or a board member?

Remember that the HOA is managed by its Board of Directors, with each one having a specific role in the organization. You have to determine whether you are complaining against the entire HOA or just a member of the board. How do you determine which is which? Again, you have to go back to the CC&Rs and by-laws. If your complaints are directly related to the general responsibility of the HOA, then you could probably file a complaint against the association.

On the other hand, if your issue is the specific responsibility of one particular board member, then your issue is probably best taken up with the board member in question.

As you can see, filing a complaint against an HOA takes time and effort; but if you truly believe your concerns are legitimate and must be acted upon immediately for the safety of your HOA-managed community, then there’s no reason for you not to pursue it.