A homeowners association (HOA) is a group made up of homeowners in a specific residential neighborhood. In an effort to maintain the uniform look of the community and keep the area inviting and attractive, the HOA draws up a list of rules, procedures and policies that are meant to keep the peace in the community. This list is called an HOA Declaration.
Terms Used in Declarations
Declarant is the term used to refer to the owner of the property in the subdivision or the homeowners association if that person is responsible for writing the HOA Declaration. Recitals is the term used for the initial claims made in the Declaration relating to the ownership of the property, the intent of the organizing of the community and a description of the property involved. Covenant is the term used for the collection of promises, restrictions and conditions set forth in the Declaration. Owner is the term used for the owner of an individual home within the subdivision under the authority of the Declaration. Articles refer to the separate governing rules for different aspects of the community. One article may refer to easements and another to the rules for membership in the community.
The HOA Declaration includes the legal and physical description of the community as a whole, because in many areas the HOA is required to submit a Declaration to the city or county government. The description also includes the number of individual units, whether houses or condominiums.
Some HOA communities are deed-restricted. In other words, a homeowner cannot decide to rent out his home to another family without express permission from the HOA. Some HOAs have a minimum age requirement, as in retirement communities, while others may not permit children to live in the home. The use restrictions article may have separate rules regarding the types of pets a homeowner can have or temporary structures that can or cannot be built.
Common Expense Assessment
One section of the Declaration should detail the use of HOA dues that are paid monthly or yearly by all homeowners in the community. Utilities for outside lighting, pool maintenance, lawn care, garbage pickup and any other expenses paid by the association as a whole are detailed in this assessment. The penalties for non-payment of dues are also made clear. These penalties may include fines or liens against the property.
When a homeowner and the HOA are in a dispute as to the interpretation of the terms or restrictions of use in the home, the section on dispute resolution is meant to provide an avenue for homeowners to have an advocate to represent them before the HOA board. Disputes regarding HOA and homeowners could include such things as the right of a homeowner to display an American flag in his yard as a sign of patriotism. While technically a flag pole with a flag may be a violation of the rules, it may be a public relations nightmare for any HOA to fight against a person's desire to fly the American flag.