What is considered acceptable or unacceptable behavior?
If you are part of a homeowner association (HOA), you may have already witnessed or experienced disagreements that can arise between the HOA board and community members. When new rules are implemented, or when residents disagree with certain regulations, conflict is likely.
A Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions is created by the HOA and is provided to all residents. This document governs the HOA and sets forth the stipulations for residing there. While the HOA board is provided certain ruling power under this document, it is still possible that the board, or certain board members, will overstep and abuse this power.
So, when does the HOA step over the line? What follows is a look at what qualifies as HOA abuse.
Any type of discrimination from the HOA board is unacceptable. This includes giving certain residents special treatment over others or making decisions based on someone's race, gender, disability, religion, or similar factors. For instance, if one resident didn't have to follow an HOA rule, but it was harshly enforced on another, this would be considered discrimination. The person discriminated against could claim that they were treated unfairly because of their background, religion, appearance, or disability.
Fortunately for HOA residents, there are federal regulations that aim to limit the power an HOA has over a community. In 1968, the Fair Housing Act was introduced to prevent discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin. This was later revised to limit other types of discrimination, including that based on sex, disability, and familial status. This legislation applies to HOAs, property owners, and the like.
HOAleader.com says that discrimination is one of the top reasons that a resident will sue an HOA, and the lawsuit often cites the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was effective as of January 1, 2009, and ensures the civil rights of disabled people are protected. These individuals must have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, the legislation says. The ADA also sets out certain standards that buildings and public and private spaces must meet to ensure that those with disabilities have access and may be served just as everyone else is served.
If an HOA discriminates against residents on any of these grounds, they have abused their power and may have violated these laws. Residents could then find an attorney and bring a charge against the HOA.
In 2016, another federal regulation was implemented for HOAs. This law requires the HOA board of directors to address any claims of harassment based on any of the discriminatory grounds listed in the section above. The harassment could have been inflicted on someone by other residents, board members, managers, or other related parties. The board must take steps to end the harassment and investigate the circumstances.
This legislation does not require that the person making the complaint actually suffered harm, whether physical or psychological, but just that the harassment occurred.
Failure to address or investigate these complaints is a violation of the HOAs responsibility to its residents.
With HOAs regulating everything from how you keep your lawn to the color of your house to what you can have on your balcony, problems are bound to arise between residents and HOAs. If someone feels they have been treated unfairly by an HOA, and the HOA does not address the issue or discriminates, the HOA may have abused its power as a governing entity.
Freedom to Display the American Flag Act
The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 is another piece of legislation that impacts HOAs. The law states that a home association cannot restrict or prevent a resident from being able to display the American flag.
However, associations can control the time, place, or manner in which a flag is replaced, as long as the stipulations are reasonable, necessary for the interest of the association, and don't violate the United States Flag Code, which governs the handling and display of the flag.
If you feel that you have been treated unfairly by your HOA, or have questions about your rights as an HOA resident, get in touch with our team at PeytonBolin. We have over 10 years of experience in Association Law. Our real estate law firm works with a variety of individuals and organizations for real estate or HOA conflicts. To schedule a consultation with someone from our experienced team, contact us today. We ensure our clients are heard and understood, and we take care of the heavy lifting in the legal system.