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Are your HOA restrictions too strict?

If you are looking at a California property governed by a homeowners association, the property manager may have offered you a document outlining the covenants, conditions and restrictions for living there. On the other hand, perhaps you have lived in your home for years and never bothered to read over the CC&R. Maybe there is some dispute among your neighbors that has brought this document to your attention.

In any case, the CC&R is essential to the orderly government of a planned community or condominium, and as a property owner, you are part of that government. Understanding your CC&R will allow you to participate fully in the decisions made about how you will co-exist with your neighbors.

Common CC&R terms

The CC&R is typically created by the homeowners who then agree to live by those terms. The rules remain in place as people buy and sell properties, and you may have moved into a neighborhood where an HOA had been in place for decades. By purchasing the property, you agree to live by the rules outlined in the CC&R, which are legally binding.

Some typical restrictions a CC&R may contain include:

  • Mandatory maintenance of your yard
  • Limits on the height of your fence
  • Prohibitions regarding the number and kinds of pets you may own
  • Restrictions on the color you may paint your house
  • Bans on the commercial use of your property

While some of these restrictions may seem overbearing, remember that the rules came about through an agreement by homeowners like you. If you don't approve of them or feel you can't abide by them, you may consider living elsewhere.

Change is not easy

It may occur to you to go ahead and purchase that beautiful home and work to change the restrictions you feel are unreasonable. However, the bylaws of many HOAs make it extremely difficult to change the CC&R. This is to establish a consistency that homeowners can depend on.

The downside is that some restrictions may remain on a CC&R even after they have become illegal. For example, if your HOA established its CC&R in the 1960s, it may still contain terms that forbid the sale of property to people of races other than white. Some HOAs believe it is enough to simply cross out those terms, and others include addendums nullifying the racist regulations. However, you may find it your mission to bring your neighbors together to revise those terms to exclude the offensive and illegal restrictions.

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