Homeowners associations are in the business of managing and/or regulating planned residential communities. Since these entities can affect the lives of residents, most states regulate their activities.
Louisiana regulates homeowners associations operating in the state under the Louisiana Homeowners Association Act, which defines and limits their authority. Condominium properties are a slightly different take on planned residential communities, and they are regulated in Louisiana under a different statutory scheme, the Louisiana Condominium Act.
Louisiana Homeowners Association Act
A homeowners association (HOA) in Louisiana must abide by its own governing documents as well as federal and state laws that regulate it. The primary law in Louisiana is the Louisiana Homeowners Association Act, starting with R.S. Section 9:1141. This law sets out rules for forming, managing and operating homeowners’ associations in Louisiana. It also describes and limits their powers.
HOAs can be organized either as nonprofits or as unincorporated associations in Louisiana. Those that operate as nonprofits must also abide by the dictates of the Louisiana Nonprofit Corporation Act. Both nonprofits and unincorporated associations must follow the laws set out in the Louisiana Business Corporation Act.
Louisiana Homeowners Association Basics
When a residential community wishes to create a HOA in Louisiana, it must first execute a declaration, then file and register it with the state. Part of the filing is a recorded map, termed a "plat."
The plat sets out each individual owner's interest in the property. Each homeowner in the community holds title to their own residence and the HOA holds title to the common areas.
Common areas usually include the grounds of the residential community and features like swimming pools, play areas for children, parking lots and any shared buildings. These communities are also called "common area communities" in Louisiana.
Homeowners Association Documents
Homeowner associations in Louisiana must prepare and file a number of legal documents. Each has a different purpose and gives the association different rights:
- Articles of Incorporation are filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State. They set out the framework for the association, most often in the form of an Incorporated Non-Profit Corporation.
- Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC and Rs) describes the HOA deed restrictions. This document must be recorded with the county land records in order to be legal and binding.
- HOA Bylaws set out the governing rules of the association, including rules for management and administration.
The association can enact other regulations that govern its members. These are created by written resolutions.
Locating HOA Documents
Anyone considering buying into a HOA community will definitely want to review these documents before signing on the dotted line. All of the documents are public and can be found by going to the website of the county recorder's office in the county where the association is located. Other HOA notices, community documents and lien notices can also be found there.
Imposition of Building Restrictions
One of the most important (and potentially controversial) powers of a HOA is the right to impose building restrictions. In Louisiana, homeowners associations are given the right to impose building restrictions on the property within the association's residential area. These restrictions can apply to both an individual's titled property within the community and also to the common areas, including roadways and sidewalks.
Do HOAs have legal power to do this? Generally the answer in Louisiana is yes, if the association sets out guidelines in the homeowner association agreements that outline this authority. Those guidelines include the procedures by which the restrictions can be established, changed and revoked.
Alternate Ways to Create Building Restrictions
If the HOA agreements do not include building restriction clauses, Louisiana HOA laws provide another way for the association to act. They permit binding building restrictions to be enacted by association members by a three-fourths vote. The regulations can later be amended by a two-thirds vote or repealed by a one-half vote.
Who gets a vote in HOA matters? Under Louisiana HOA statutes, every lot in a residential area under the authority of the homeowners association has one vote. Common areas do not represent a voting area. A vote can be taken by written ballots or by direct, in-person voting at an association meeting. The result of the vote is legally binding to all members.
Types of Building Restrictions
Louisiana HOA building restrictions involve different types of regulations. First, they can set restrictions on the physical construction, like height restrictions, design restrictions and land improvements. The restrictions can also set out standards for construction.
Another type of building restriction that can be imposed by an HOA involves imposing a legal obligation on its members to pay monthly or periodic fees to the association. Alternatively, this can be in the form of a one-time charge to the property owners to cover a particular improvement to the community.
Louisiana Condominium Act
Residential condominium units are similar to residential communities in that the separate residences all share common areas with common ownership. However, these types of units are not included in the coverage of the Louisiana Homeowners Association Act. Rather, they are regulated in the state under the Louisiana Condominium Act.
This act sets up the framework of laws for residential condominiums, regulating how condominiums are formed, how the ownership interests are apportioned, how expenses for common areas are shared and the voting rights of each unit. It also discusses the powers and administration of the condo association with an eye toward protecting purchasers.
The primary difference between a condo association and a homeowners association is who owns what. With a condo association, each member owns their individual unit and they also hold a joint ownership interest in the common areas. In an HOA, the individual owns their residence and their parcel of land, but the homeowners association owns common areas.
HOA Discrimination Laws
In addition to the laws giving authority to Louisiana HOAs and condominium associations, these homeowner associations are covered by other laws generally applicable to all housing. This includes the federal Fair Housing Act that prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings.
The specific types of discrimination precluded by the Fair Housing Act are those based on:
- Familial status.
- National origin.
State and Federal Discrimination Laws
Louisiana has a state law similar to this federal law. The Louisiana Equal Housing Opportunity Act forbids the same types of housing discrimination as the federal Fair Housing Act. These federal and state laws apply to HOAs and condos, as well as privately owned homes.
These laws forbidding discrimination in housing are enforced by both the state and the federal government. The Louisiana Attorney General's Office is the state agency in charge, while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is the federal agency charged with enforcement.
Anyone who is a victim of housing discrimination can file a complaint with either of these agencies within 12 months of the action. Alternatively, they can file a private suit in federal district court within two years.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.