HOA Laws & Regulations

Last Updated: June 27, 2023 by Corrin Swintosky

In most states, laws governing homeowners associations (HOA) are relatively uniform. Other rules and regulations can be found in federal laws or in the governing documents of each specific HOA.

Who Regulates HOAs?

HOAs are regulated on the local, state, and federal level. State laws oversee the creation, operation, and termination of HOAs. Applicable federal laws include The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, The Fair Housing Act, and the Code of Federal Regulations.

HOAs are also regulated by their own governing documents. These documents typically include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, and other rules and regulations. Every HOA is different in what documents they choose to govern themselves.

How to Find HOA Regulations

HOA regulations can usually be found in one of three ways:

  • County recorder, deed, or clerk’s office where the HOA property is located
  • Website or office of the individual state’s Secretary of State agency
  • Directly from the HOA

Obtaining HOA regulations may require payment of a fee or filling out a record request form in order to view or inspect copies as a member of the public. HOA members are not charged a fee for requesting their HOA’s governing documents or financial statements.

HOA Powers

Typically, HOAs have the power to:

  • Maintain and repair common elements
  • Impose fines for the care of common areas
  • Collect payments for common assessments
  • Levy reasonable fines for violation of rules
  • Restrict access to common areas
  • Foreclose on a home for unpaid liens

Other specific items are addressed in the HOA’s governing documents such as exterior paint color, parking, and landscaping.

Can an HOA Impose Fines on a Homeowner?

Most states allow HOAs to impose fines on a homeowner for violation of its rules and late payments of expenses. Some states require a notice and opportunity to be heard before the HOA imposes a fine while other states do not.

The type of fine, amount, and notice requirements can be found in each HOA’s governing documents.

An HOA cannot generally fine a homeowner for or prohibit:

  • Displaying the American flag
  • Installing satellite dishes or antennas
  • Installing solar panels

Many state laws also prohibit HOAs from imposing fines or restrictions on homeowners, including displaying political signs, state flags, or military branch flags. The HOA’s governing documents will have information regarding the display, placement, and manner of any of these items.

Can an HOA Take a Homeowner’s House?

Most states do not allow an HOA to evict a homeowner. If they do, it would be laid out in the foreclosure process. Some states explicitly permit HOAs to evict tenants. HOAs in states that do not must rely on the governing documents for any eviction proceedings.

States that do have provisions outlining an HOA taking a homeowner’s house involve getting a lien on the homeowner’s property for unpaid assessments. Once the lien is filed, HOAs can pursue foreclosure of the property to pay the delinquent amount.

Can an HOA Enter a Homeowner’s Property?

Usually, an HOA can only enter a homeowner’s property for emergencies or to attend to repairs impacting common areas or other individual units.

HOAs are generally required to give reasonable notice before entering a home for repairs. Limited common elements, such as a balcony, require reasonable notice before entering. Common areas, such as a pool or fitness center, usually do not require notice.

Reasonable notice requirements depend on the reason for entering and can be found in the HOA’s governing documents.

Where Do Homeowners File Complaints Against Their HOA?

The venue for filing a complaint against an HOA depends on the type of complaint.

For complaints concerning HOA fees, a homeowner can file a complaint with the appropriate state agency, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, homeowners may also file in state or federal court within one year of the violation date.

If a homeowner feels they are a victim of housing discrimination, they can file a complaint with the state’s human or civil rights agency, the U.S. Department of Urban Housing, or file a private lawsuit in state or federal court.

Otherwise, a homeowner with any other complaints can bring a claim in state court in the appropriate county.

Joining and Leaving an HOA

Most states do not have laws for joining or leaving for HOAs. Joining and leaving clauses are typically outlined in the governing documents.

Generally, there are two types of HOAs:

  • Voluntary HOAs. Do not require membership or payment of association dues. A homeowner can leave at any time.
  • Mandatory HOAs. Require membership and payment of association fees. Homeowners are not able to opt-out of HOA rules or leave without completing the HOA’s procedures.

To leave mandatory HOAs, the homeowner can either sell their home or petition the court to have their home removed from the association. Neither of these is guaranteed.

How to Dissolve an HOA

Since most HOAs are nonprofit corporation business entities, they tend to follow the same state laws as nonprofit corporations would for dissolution. To obtain authorization for dissolution, the HOA must get approval from one or all of the following:

  • The board
  • HOA member majority vote
  • A written statement from all members supporting the dissolution

Once authorized, HOAs traditionally need to dispose of all their assets and debts. After disposing of all required items, filing essential documents such as an Articles of Dissolution with the state’s Secretary of State usually completes the dissolution process.