The homeowners' association's (HOA) attorney represents the HOA as an entity. The HOA is separate...
Homeowners should always confirm HOA rules prior to commencing construction or alteration on their home. Whether installing a patio or building an addition, most HOAs have strict guidelines about what can be built, where it can be built, and how it must look. Most HOAs also require HOA approval prior to building and/or altering landscape or home. Homeowners who fail to follow the established approval process may be required to remove the structure at their own expense.
The first thing every homeowner should do is review HOA governing documents. Most will require submission of the plans to the HOA for the board to review and approve. This process varies from HOA to HOA, so it is wise to confirm the process and factor this into the building schedule.
Once the plans are approved and the required permits are secured, homeowners must work closely with builders and contractors to ensure that the work is performed in accordance with HOA rules. This includes scheduling work during approved periods and ensuring that waste and construction debris are properly removed from the property. It also requires confirming where construction trailers, portable toilets, etc. can be positioned during the construction process. During construction, the homeowner is responsible for ensuring that the contractor and their teams remain compliant with HOA policies.
Special Circumstances for Condos and Common Areas
Whether it is an easement within a subdivision or a common area in a condo community, these create special circumstances that every homeowner should know before initiating improvements. Most interior work is not prohibited as long as they do not change the structure or outward appearance of the community. However, any structural changes such as knocking down walls, rerouting electrical, plumbing, or heating systems are likely prohibited without prior approval.
In communities where homeowners can modify common areas, such as by placing landscaping within common areas, it is imperative to comply with the required approval procedures and selection of landscaping materials. HOA’s are required to enforce CC&R’s equally and homeowners who do not comply can find themselves in a situation where the condo manager removes the improvements, restores the landscaping within a common area, and then sends the homeowner the bill for the work.
Property Liens are a Steep HOA Penalty
HOA’s can issue fines and significant penalties against homeowners who fail to comply. If a structure is built that does not comply with HOA regulations and guidelines, these penalties can result in a lien being placed upon the property for any prohibited improvements similar to liens placed for unpaid assessments.