In Virginia, certain planned communities may be governed by a homeowners association (“HOA”). Their powers and responsibilities vary based on the property type and governing documents.
Who Regulates HOAs in Virginia?
In Virginia, an HOA is regulated by the Virginia Property Owners Association Act found at Title 55.1 Chapter 18 of the Virginia Code. This Act applies to all common interest communities (condominiums, cooperatives, and other planned communities) created in Virginia.
Otherwise, governing documents regulate an HOA. Although every HOA is different, the governing documents typically include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restriction, and other rules and regulations.
HOAs in Virginia may also be subject to applicable federal laws such as:
HOAs may also be subject to certain state laws such as:
How to Find HOA Rules/Laws in Virginia
HOA governing documents are public record in Virginia. An HOA must record its governing documents with the county land records to be enforceable. To obtain these documents visit the local county clerk’s office.
In some instances, you can obtain these records online by using the Virginia State Corporation Commission Clerk’s Information System. On this site, homeowners may be able to access the HOA’s governing documents and annual reports. A homeowner can also access an HOA’s public business information, registered agent information, and board members.
HOA Powers in Virginia
In Virginia, an HOA has the power to:
- Collect assessments for common expenses;
- Regulate common areas;
- Suspend a member’s rights to use facilities or services;
- Collect charges to maintain and operate the common areas;
- Collect charges for late payments of assessments;
- Levy reasonable fines; and
- Foreclose on your house for unpaid liens.
Additionally, HOA governing documents can grant further powers such as restrictions on home ownership, exterior paint colors, fencing and parking requirements.
Can an HOA Fine You in Virginia? If So, by How Much?
In Virginia, an HOA may impose fines on a homeowner for violating its rules. The HOA must give the homeowner notice and an opportunity to correct the violation. Charges or fees may not exceed $50 for a single offense or $10 per day, for up to 90 days, for any continuous offense.
If fees or assessments go unpaid for 60 or more days, an HOA may suspend a member’s right to use facilities or services, including utility services, provided directly through the association if the suspension does not endanger the health, safety, or property of any owner, tenant, or occupant.
An HOA cannot fine a homeowner for (or generally prohibit):
- Displaying the American Flag so long as the flag is displayed in a manner consistent with federal flag display law;
- Installing a flagpole to display the American flag; or
- Installing solar energy panels;
- 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 Your House in Virginia?
An HOA can foreclose on your house in Virginia for unpaid liens. However, an HOA cannot foreclosure without first mailing a notice of delinquency to the homeowner and giving the homeowner a chance to pay the outstanding debts.
After giving notice, the HOA must provide the delinquent homeowner with at least 60 days to pay the debt. The HOA may sell the property if the homeowner does not pay the debt within 60 days. A homeowner may prevent a sale by paying the debt plus all expenses the HOA incurred during the foreclosure process.
An HOA cannot evict a homeowner or a tenant of a homeowner unless expressly authorized in the governing documents. The HOA also does not have the power to force a homeowner to evict their tenant. However, the HOA may have other powers or restrictions about rental properties in its governing documents.
Can an HOA Enter Your Property in Virginia?
In Virginia there is no provision in the law that allows an HOA to enter your property. However, most governing documents contain a provision allowing an HOA to enter your home as reasonably necessary to maintain common elements or shared utilities.
Common elements are the shared spaces in and around your 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 your property. Typically, an HOA will give 1-2 weeks’ notice, but notice requirements are determined by the governing documents.
Where Do I File a Complaint Against my HOA in Virginia?
The venue for filing a Complaint against an HOA in Virginia depends on the complaint.
For complaints concerning HOA fees, a homeowner can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, 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 theVirginia Fair Housing Office, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or file a private lawsuit in Virginia federal or state court.
For general complaints, a homeowner can seek assistance or file a complaint online at the Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsman, a homeowner can also bring a claim in state court in the appropriate county.
Joining & Leaving an HOA in Virginia
In Virginia, if you purchase a home in a neighborhood with a preexisting HOA, you are required to join and abide by the HOA rules. At closing, your realtor should present you with documents explaining the HOA and its rules.
If you bought a house in a neighborhood with an HOA you cannot simply leave or opt-out of the HOA. To leave an HOA you can sell your house or you try to petition the HOA to have your home removed, but there is no guaranteed right that the petition will be granted.
How to Dissolve an HOA in Virginia
The governing documents may contain the process for dissolution of an HOA. If it is not, the board members of the HOA must propose dissolution to the members of the HOA.
After a proposal, appropriate notice must be provided to the members of the HOA. Unless otherwise specified by the governing documents, more than two-thirds of all the voters must approve dissolution to dissolve.
If approved, the agreeing members will sign a termination agreement, settle any debts, dispose of assets belonging to the HOA, and file the necessary documentation with the Virginia State Corporate Commission to complete the dissolution.