California residents who buy homes in planned communities or in developments with homeowners associations usually a sign document known as the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. These documents place restrictions on what property owners can do with their property or limit certain types of behavior, and homeowners usually agree to them because they wish to protect their investments and avoid annoying or offensive neighbors.
While zoning laws determine how land in a particular area may be used and what kind of developments can be built, covenants lay out rules for community residents. Covenants require all property owners in a community to maintain certain standards to prevent one offending owner from bringing down the value of surrounding homes. They are designed to ensure that neighborhoods remain desirable to home buyers and property values remain stable or rise. In return for these benefits, homeowners accept certain restrictions being placed on them and the sacrifices involved.
Covenants are sometimes quite restrictive. Some HOAs require property owners to plant certain types of grass or shrubs, paint their houses or front doors particular colors or forbid them from owning certain types of vehicle. HOAs also use covenants to restrict parking or prevent property owners or renters from playing music outside after a given hour.
Disputes over restrictive covenants can be extremely contentious, but attorneys with experience in this area may urge the parties involved to seek an amicable compromise if at all possible. Settling homeowner disputes in court can lead to lingering resentment and nurture future conflict, and attorneys may suggest alternative approaches such as mediation when conventional negotiations are unsuccessful and litigation seems inevitable. Attorneys could also work with HOAs to revise unreasonable covenants and restrictions in order to avoid legal entanglements and improve the quality of life for residents while maintaining community standards and property values.