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Did you buy your house with the hopes of making it your own?

You may be one of the many California residents who purchased a home in order to make it your own. You can paint the walls, decorate any way you like and otherwise put your personal touch on it. You may want to put up a fence for your pets, paint the exterior of your home or finally have a place to park your RV or boat.

Wait, back up for a minute. Did you read the covenants, conditions and restrictions, commonly referred to as CC&Rs, for your neighborhood when you bought the house? Do you pay dues to a homeowners' association? If you live in a gated community or closed subdivision, you could encounter difficulties in making certain changes to the exterior of your home. You may even find restrictions regarding the use of your home such as having a home-based business.

What are CC&Rs?

CC&Rs include certain rules between you, your neighbors and the homeowners' association that restrict you from doing certain things to your property. When you found and decided to purchase your home, you probably thought you found a safe, beautiful and well-maintained neighborhood. You may not have realized that this is due to the CC&Rs of the community.

These rules and regulations often include issues such as the architectural designs of the homes in the community, fence heights and other restrictions that tend to keep the community looking uniform. Common rules include those regarding lawn care, parking vehicles and even putting up a basketball hoop.

Why didn't I know about this?

Unfortunately, obtaining the CC&Rs often ends up as an afterthought. In many cases, copies of them only reach you at or near the closing. At this point, your investment in purchasing the home may keep you from paying close attention to any covenants, conditions and restrictions placed on you when it comes to your (about to be) new home.

Once you become aware of them, read them carefully. If you need help interpreting them, you could seek the advice and assistance of an attorney. Unfortunately, it may be too late to back out of the purchase now if you disagree with the CC&Rs, but it may be possible to negotiate with your HOA to determine whether amending or revoking a certain provision could occur.

If you are already involved in a dispute with your HOA over a particular covenant, condition or restriction, you may benefit from discussing the matter with an attorney. It would behoove you to enlist the aid of an attorney who has spent years (or decades) handling these matters for both homeowners and HOAs. He or she would understand the particulars of the law regarding CC&Rs, could advise you of your legal rights and advocate for you with the HOA or even in court, if it comes to that.

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