In Tennessee, 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 Tennessee
While the state of Tennessee does have a Homeowners Association Act, it contains very little and mostly administrative laws.
The Tennessee Nonprofit Corporation Act found in Title 48 and Chapter 51 of the Tennessee Code has more thorough information on HOAs that are nonprofits for the purposes of this article. This act covers all corporations engaging in any type of lawful business.
HOAs traditionally have documents that regulate themselves. Every HOA is different, however, the governing documents typically include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restriction, and other rules.
HOAs in Tennessee may be subject to applicable federal laws such as:
HOAs may be subject to certain state laws such as:
How to Find HOA Regulations in Tennessee
HOA governing documents are not public records in Tennessee. HOAs are required to file certain documents with the county register of deeds and the Tennessee Secretary of State. Documents filed with the county register of deeds can be accessed by visiting their local office and paying a filing fee.
Certain HOA information posted on the Tennessee Secretary of State Business Search website can be accessed by anyone online. HOA information includes the start date, address, officers, agents, and types of filings.
Document filings with the Tennessee Secretary of State can be accessed by filling out a Request for Copy of Documents form, mailing or delivering the form in person, and paying a $20 filing fee.
HOA Powers in Tennessee
In Tennessee, HOAs have the power to:
- Collect payment for common assessments
- Collect charges to maintain and operate the common areas
- Levy reasonable fines
Additionally, HOA governing documents can grant further powers such as restrictions on membership, exterior paint colors, fencing, and parking requirements.
Can an HOA Impose Fines on a Homeowner in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, HOAs can impose fines on a homeowner. There are no provisions stating specific fine types or amounts for members. These processes and notice requirements can be found in the HOA’s governing documents.
An HOA cannot fine a homeowner for (or generally prohibit) any of the following:
- Renting out their property
- Installing satellite dishes and antennas
- Displaying the American flag so long as it is consistent with federal flag display law
The governing documents of an HOA may include reasonable rules and regulations about the placement, manner, and display of the American flag and satellite dishes and antennas.
Can an HOA Take a Homeowner’s House in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, there is no provision in the state code that conveys if an HOA can take a homeowner’s house. The governing documents will note if an HOA is allowed to take a homeowner’s house and steps to take action.
Although, Tennessee does have specific codes governing condos that may be regulated by HOAs. Condo associations can take a homeowner’s house in Tennessee for unpaid fines or liens after proper notice is given to the homeowner.
There is also no provision regarding HOAs evicting homeowners or tenants. Eviction proceedings are addressed in the HOA’s governing documents.
Can an HOA Enter a Homeowner’s Property in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, there is no provision in the law that allows an HOA to enter a homeowner’s property. However, most governing documents contain a provision allowing an HOA to enter one’s home as reasonably necessary to maintain units, common elements, or shared utilities.
Units are the spaces in and around the house that are collectively owned by the HOA, such as balconies. Common elements are the shared spaces in and around the house that are collectively owned by the HOA, such as a pool. Shared utilities may include water or sewage that are provided directly through the HOA.
Except in the case of an emergency, the HOA must generally give prior notice before entering the property. Typically, an HOA will give 1-2 weeks’ notice, but notice requirements are determined by the governing documents.
Where Do Homeowners File Complaints Against Their HOA in Tennessee?
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 Tennessee Human Rights Commission, the U.S. Department of Urban Housing, or file a private lawsuit in Tennessee state court, eastern federal, or western 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, eastern federal, or western 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 Tennessee
In Tennessee, there is no state provision on joining or leaving an HOA. These processes are determined by the HOA’s governing documents. Documents explaining the HOA and its membership rules should be presented at the closing for a new owner’s home purchase.
Typically, there are two types of HOAs that regulate joining and leaving clauses:
- Mandatory HOAs. When a person buys a home, they automatically become a member required to abide by any HOA rules listed in the governing documents. This usually includes that a homeowner is not able to leave the HOA freely.
- Voluntary HOAs. When a person buys a home, membership is a choice for each homeowner. If they choose to become a member, they may leave at any time by stopping their payments with the HOA.
To leave a mandatory HOA, a homeowner can sell their house or try to petition the HOA to have their home removed. However, there is no guarantee the petition will be granted.
How to Dissolve an HOA in Tennessee
The dissolution process of an HOA in Tennessee may be found in the HOA’s governing documents. If it is not, the board must first recommend dissolution at a meeting to HOA members. The members conduct a vote and must meet at least ⅔ approving the dissolution.
If the dissolution is approved by HOA member votes, a summary of a plan for dissolution will be drafted. Once the plan for dissolution has been executed, the HOA must file an Articles of Dissolution with the Tennessee Secretary of State.
Unless an effective date is specified in the Articles of Dissolution, the HOA is considered dissolved upon filing.