A series of governing documents and laws direct the operation of a homeowner association. While the HOA Board has authority to make rules for the community, all rules must be within the scope of the governing documents and the law. Unfortunately, many states have obscure and vague property laws that may not be well known. Thus, you may unknowingly enact a ban that is in opposition to state law.
You may think that you know the law, but it’s easier than you think for an association to make a rule that it has no authority to make. General research may not reveal amendments, especially those that were made many years ago. To complicate a search further, it’s difficult to locate information if there are multiple modifications contained within a law.
A recent blog by CMCAcorner about homeowners drying laundry on an outside clothesline illustrates how associations can overstep their authority. It’s estimated that more than half of HOAs restrict or ban clotheslines. However, clothesline drying relies on solar energy, so they fit under states’ solar access laws. Clotheslines are protected in many states. Does your association ban clotheslines? Do you know if it’s legal in your state?
Prohibition of satellite dishes is another frequent association rule that FCC rules render moot. The FCC prohibits restrictions that delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use of video antennas including satellite dishes, TV antennas and wireless cable antennas. This rule also disallows edicts that increase satellite cost or interfere with reception of a quality signal.
The Board has a responsibility to ensure that appropriate and legal rules are in place. When your Board decides that a new rule is needed in the community, “What does the state say?” should be one of your first questions.
Before you start researching and surfing Internet for potential conflicts, consult the professionals that serve your association. They have a wealth of resources and knowledge that they have developed through the years, and they may have the answer readily available.
The next time your HOA Board wants to establish a new rule, make sure you have the authority you think you have. It keeps your community rules on the right side of the law.