How to Fight Your HOA and Win

Young homeowners talking to HOA board member.
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As the owner of a condominium or a house in a planned development, you automatically become a member of a homeowners association that allows you to share ownership of common areas. The HOA board of directors establishes and enforces the rules and responsibilities of the owners. While homeowners generally appreciate the protection and amenities a homeowners association offers, owners occasionally object to something an HOA board has done -- or hasn't done. If you decide to fight, you may need to hire a lawyer to help win your battle.

Study the HOA's Rules and Regulations

When you bought your home, you probably received a document called the covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CC&Rs, that spells out your rights as a homeowner. In addition, your HOA board holds regular meetings during which it votes on changes to the rules. Study your master deed, your CC&Rs and rule changes to verify that there are regulations concerning your particular problem. If there are no specific regulations addressing your problem, you could claim that certain HOA actions are arbitrary. Whether you are arguing over a new assessment, a fine, or changes to the rules, your options for challenging the HOA board should be spelled out somewhere in the CC&Rs. Keep thorough records of your research to document your argument.

Try to Work Things Out Within the HOA

Start your fight by writing to the HOA board outlining your complaint and submitting your documentation. You can help by suggesting solutions to the problem. Your HOA rules may allow mediation to settle disputes among homeowners or between homeowners and the board. Unless your disagreement with the HOA is a personal matter, like an unpaid fine, you may find that your neighbors also share your objection. Attend board meetings and bring up your complaint to see if others agree. Take notes on the board's response. Read minutes of past meetings for comments from other owners. If your association has a website, post a message seeking support. Once you locate fellow objectors, find out if your HOA allows homeowners to submit a petition requesting a hearing, protesting HOA actions or demanding a rule change.

Decide if You Have Grounds to Sue

Your HOA has a fiduciary duty to manage its financial affairs responsibly. Failure to do so could be grounds for legal action. The HOA is obligated to uphold its own rules, and homeowners have the right to force the association board to comply. The HOA, either directly or through a management company, is responsible for taking care of common areas. If the HOA has failed to maintain the property and someone is hurt, or if an individual home is damaged, the HOA could be liable. HOAs are legal entities, so you should consult a real estate lawyer who has expertise in HOA disputes and relevant state laws and who can guide you through the HOA rules, write letters and, if necessary, file a lawsuit.

File a Lawsuit

If you can show that your HOA board has done something not permitted by its own rules or is failing to act on its rules, you can challenge the HOA in court. If the HOA is enforcing a rule against you but not on others, you could have a case of discrimination. The court could find that the HOA has been discriminatory or negligent in enforcing, or failing to enforce, its rules and could even declare that a rule is unreasonable and must be deleted.

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