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Your rights when buying into an HOA

When you began your search for the perfect place to raise your family or retire, you likely took a careful look at the neighborhoods as well as the kitchen, baths and bedrooms. An unpredictable neighborhood or inconsiderate neighbors can make even the perfect house into a living nightmare.

One way to avoid many of the problems that are common among neighbors is to purchase a home in a gated or planned community. Homeowners associations control these neighborhoods. The HOA is comprised of homeowners in the community who agree to live by the rules before they buy their homes. If you are considering purchasing a home in a Texas community that has an HOA, you would be wise to read carefully and fully understand those rules before making your decision.

CC&R

The rules in a planned development are called covenants, conditions and restrictions. The developer of the neighborhood and the original members of the HOA assemble the CC&R in most planned communities. In other words, some of your future neighbors probably wrote the CC&R in the neighborhood where you want to live. The purpose of these rules is not to make your life miserable but to maintain and improve property values and protect you and all your neighbors from uncomfortable situations.

Some of the common items in CC&Rs include the following:

  • Requiring you to keep your yard and property neat and well-maintained
  • Restricting the kind, size and location of any structure you build on your property
  • Prohibiting you from using your home for anything except residential purposes, for example, running your business
  • Limiting the height and materials of fences
  • Controlling the kind, size and number of animals you may keep on your property

Some CC&R have more rigid prohibitions than others, for example the color you may paint your house or the kind of holiday lights you may display.

Unenforceable restrictions

The problems arise when a CC&R has restrictions that are illegal, especially those concerning racial discrimination. Some older neighborhoods may have CC&R that date back more than 50 years and contain language that prohibits the sale of lots or homes to people of color. You may choose to avoid purchasing in these neighborhoods.

When you make your selection of neighborhoods, be sure to carefully review the CC&R, perhaps with the help of an attorney, before signing on the line. Understanding your rights as a member of the community will help you know how far your HOA can go before it interferes with your rights. Additionally, you will recognize when your HOA does not fulfill its duty according to the CC&R contract.

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