Your home is your castle. But when your castle is a condominium or planned-unit housing development governed by a homeowners association, other homeowners have the right to limit your activities and affect how you use your home.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
A homeowner can sue an HOA for not following its own rules, failing to properly manage its affairs or neglecting the care of common areas.
Rules and Regulations
A homeowners association is the governing body for your planned unit development. All owners automatically become members of the HOA, and your purchase is a contract to pay a fee and abide by all the HOA rules. These rules are called covenants, conditions and restrictions, also known as CC&Rs.
The CC&Rs can restrict such things as how many cars you can park, whether you can own a pet or the size and number of pets, noise and other disturbances, satellite TV installations, and even whether you can display flags on your dwelling. In return for the restrictions, HOAs generally provide such amenities as landscaping, snow removal, pools, recreation areas and common area repairs.
CC&Rs and Homeowners' Rights
Homeowners have the right to object to any CC&R rule that they feel is unfair, but they must gather enough support to approach the HOA board of directors and request the change. Individual homeowners can also run to serve on the board and try to change things from within. An HOA has legal recourse against homeowners who fail to pay fees or otherwise violate the CC&R, but homeowners also have a right to sue their HOA.
Grounds for a Lawsuit
LegalMatch cites three circumstances for which a homeowner may sue an HOA. A breach of fiduciary duty refers to the failure of an HOA to manage the association’s affairs prudently and reasonably. Negligent care and maintenance of common areas can be cause for a suit for damages if a resident or guest is injured because the HOA has failed to correct a dangerous situation in a common area, or if such negligence results in damage to an individual's home.
A homeowner can also sue if the HOA has violated its own rules. Because the CC&R is a contract between the homeowner and the HOA, failure of the association to uphold the regulations can be considered a breach of contract. For example, the CC&R may require that a member of the HOA board must be a homeowner. If it can be proven that a board member has moved out of the development while still serving on the board, a homeowner can sue.
Other disputes by homeowners against their associations may involve neglected landscaping, failure to enforce rules about noise, barking dogs and other nuisances, selective enforcement of rules against certain homeowners and financial mismanagement.
Hire a Lawyer
A homeowner can go to court to compel the HOA to obey its own rules. A judge could direct the HOA to comply with its rules and could even find that a rule is unconstitutional and order it stricken. HOAs are generally established according to the laws of each state. In a dispute with an HOA, a resident or group of residents would be wise to consult an attorney experienced in HOA and state laws.
As a long-time newspaper reporter and staff writer, Kay Bosworth covered real estate development and business for publications in northern New Jersey. Her extensive career included serving as editor of a business education magazine for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The Kentucky native earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington.