In Pennsylvania, certain planned communities are governed by a homeowners association (HOA). Their powers and responsibilities vary based on the property type and governing documents.
Who Regulates HOAs in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, HOAs are regulated by the Uniform Planned Community Act (UPCA) found in Title 68 Chapters 51-54 of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. This act applies to all planned communities that hold more than 12 units and creates responsibilities for HOAs to oversee these communities.
HOAs traditionally have documents that regulate themselves. While every HOA is different, the governing documents typically include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, and other rules.
HOAs in Pennsylvania may be subject to applicable federal laws such as:
HOAs may be subject to certain state laws such as:
- Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
- Pennsylvania Real Estate Cooperative Act
- Pennsylvania Nonprofit Corporations Act
How to Find HOAs Regulations in Pennsylvania
Not all HOA documents are public in Pennsylvania. An HOA must record a declaration in every county where the HOA property is located.
Declarations contain descriptions of building structures and development items which are considered public records. Anyone can obtain these records by going to the Recorder of Deeds in the appropriate county.
HOA information such as the filing date, effective date, business type, status, officers, general partners, or fictitious name owners can be obtained by the Pennsylvania Department of State online, over the phone, or in writing.
Bylaws and other governing documents of the HOA are not public records in Pennsylvania. These documents are kept under the records of the HOA.
HOA Powers in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the HOA has the power to:
- Regulate common areas
- Collect payments to maintain and operate the common areas
- Impose charges for late payment of assessments
- Suspend rights to common facilities and amenities
- Levy reasonable fines
- Foreclose on a house for unpaid liens’
Also, HOA governing documents can grant more powers such as restrictions on exterior paint colors, fencing, membership, and parking requirements.
Can an HOA Impose Fines on a Homeowner in Pennsylvania?
An HOA can impose fines on a homeowner in Pennsylvania. HOAs must give homeowners an opportunity to be heard before imposing charges.
Charges can involve late payment of assessments and violations of the declarations, bylaws, and rules and regulations of the HOA. The HOA’s governing documents will likely note the amount and types of fees in a homeowner’s HOA as well as notice requirements for such fees.
An HOA cannot fine a homeowner (or generally prohibit) the display of the American flag so long as the flag is displayed in a manner consistent with federal flag display law or install satellite dishes and antennas.
An HOA’s governing documents may include reasonable rules and regulations regarding the placement and manner of display of the American flag and solar panels
Can an HOA Take a Homeowner’s House in Pennsylvania?
An HOA in Pennsylvania can foreclose on a home within its community. HOAs have the power to place a lien on a property when the owner neglects to pay their dues. If a lien goes unresolved, the HOA can foreclose on the house.
An HOA cannot evict a homeowner. If an HOA directly leases a residence to a tenant, they may be able to evict the tenant. For example, an HOA may be able to evict a tenant if the lease was not properly authorized by the HOA.
In addition, the HOA may have other powers or restrictions regarding rental properties in its governing documents.
Can an HOA Enter a Homeowner’s Property in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, an HOA can enter a homeowner’s property to make reasonable modifications to accommodate people with disabilities. HOAs may also enter units, common elements, or shared utilities to provide reasonable modifications, repairs, and maintenance.
Units are private spaces only intended for the property owner’s use but have certain spaces that require maintenance by the HOA, such as balconies. Common elements are the shared spaces around the units owned by the HOA, such as elevators. Shared utilities may include water or trash removal directly provided by the HOA.
Except in the case of an emergency, the HOA must generally give prior notice before entering the property. Usually, an HOA will give 1-2 weeks’ notice, but the timeline of the notice is ultimately determined by the governing documents.
Where Do Homeowners File Complaints Against Their HOA in Pennsylvania?
The appropriate agency to file a complaint against an HOA depends on the type of complaint.
If a homeowner feels they are a victim of housing discrimination, they can file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the U.S. Department of Urban Housing, or file a private lawsuit in Pennsylvania state or federal court.
For complaints concerning HOA fees, a homeowner can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General, 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.
A homeowner can bring all other complaints to state court in the appropriate jurisdiction by filing a claim.
Joining and Leaving an HOA in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, if a person purchases a home in a neighborhood with a preexisting HOA, they are required to join and abide by the HOA rules. The homeowner should be presented with documents explaining the HOA and its rules at the closing of the home purchase.
If a person bought a house in a neighborhood with an HOA, they cannot simply leave or opt-out of the HOA. To leave an HOA, the homeowner can sell their house or try to petition the HOA to have their home removed from the association, but there is no guaranteed right that the petition will be granted.
How to Dissolve an HOA in Pennsylvania
The process for dissolution of an HOA in [state] may be set forth in the HOA’s governing documents. If not listed, a majority vote by members of the HOA at a meeting is required to move forward with the dissolution.
Homeowners must come to a majority vote of at least 80% to approve the dissolution of an HOA. If approved, the agreeing unit owners sign and date the termination agreement. Once the termination agreement has been recorded in every county where the HOA has property, it is considered dissolved.