Washington State HOA Laws

Washington State HOA Laws

Last Updated: January 24, 2023

In Washington State, many planned communities are managed by a homeowners association (HOA). Their powers and responsibilities vary based on the property type and governing documents.

Who Regulates HOAs in Washington?

In Washington, the Washington Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (“WUCIOA”), found in Chapter 64.90 of the Washington Code, governs and regulates HOAs. This Act applies to all common interest communities (condominiums, cooperatives, and other planned communities) created in Washington. An HOA is also regulated by its own governing documents.

Although every HOA is different, the governing documents typically include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, and other rules and regulations.

HOAs in Washington 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 Regulations in Washington

HOA governing documents are public record in Washington. 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, a person can obtain these records online by using the Washington State Corporations and Charities Filing System. On this site, anyone can access the HOA’s governing documents, annual reports, public business information, registered agent information, and board members.

HOA Powers in Washington

In Washington, an HOA has the power to:

  •   Collect assessments for common expenses
  •   Regulate common areas
  •   Enter the property to maintain common elements
  •   Collect charges to maintain and operate the common areas
  •   Collect charges for late payments of assessments
  •   Levy reasonable fines
  •   Foreclose on a house for unpaid liens

Additional powers of an HOA are outlined in the HOA’s governing documents. The governing documents can give the HOA numerous powers, including restrictions on home ownership. Some restrictions may include exterior paint colors, fencing, and parking requirements.

Can an HOA Impose Fines on a Homeowner in Washington? 

In Washington, an HOA can impose reasonable fines on a homeowner for violating the rules of the HOA. An HOA may only levy these fines after giving the homeowner notice and an opportunity to be heard.

An HOA cannot fine a homeowner for (or generally prohibit) any of the following:

  • 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
  • Displaying political yard signs
  • Installing solar energy panels
  • Installing drought or wildfire resistant landscaping
  • Reducing or eliminating the watering of lawns during a drought

An HOA’s governing documents may include reasonable rules and regulations regarding the placement and manner of display of the American flag, political yard signs, and solar panels.

Can an HOA Take a Homeowner’s House in Washington?

An HOA can foreclose on a homeowner’s house in Washington for unpaid liens. However, an HOA cannot foreclose without first getting board approval and mailing a notice of delinquency to the homeowner.

An HOA may not foreclose on the lien unless the homeowner owes at least 3 months of assessments or $200 of assessments (whichever is greater). This does not include fines, late charges, interest, attorneys’ fees, or costs incurred by the association in connection with the collection.

An HOA cannot evict a homeowner. If an HOA directly leases a residence to a tenant, they may be able to evict the tenant. Depending on how the governing documents are drafted, the HOA may also evict a tenant if the lease was not properly authorized by the HOA. Otherwise, the HOA may have other powers or restrictions about rental properties in its governing documents.

Can an HOA Enter a Homeowner’s Property in Washington?

In Washington an HOA can enter a homeowner’s property as reasonably necessary to maintain units, common elements, or shared utilities.

Units are solely used by the property owners, but have certain spaces that require maintenance 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.

Except in the case of an emergency, the HOA must give prior notice before entering. 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 Washington?

The venue for filing a Complaint against an HOA in Washington 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 can also file in state or federal court in the eastern or western district 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 Washington State Human Rights Commission, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or file a private lawsuit in federal court eastern or western district or state court.

Otherwise, a homeowner can bring a claim in state court in the appropriate county.

Joining and Leaving an HOA in Washington

In Washington, if a person purchases a home in a neighborhood with a preexisting HOA, they must join and abide by the HOA rules. A homeowner should be presented with documents explaining the HOA and its rules at the closing of their home purchase.

If a person bought a house in a neighborhood with an HOA, they will not have the option to simply opt-out of the HOA. To leave an HOA, a homeowner can sell their house or try to petition the HOA to have their home removed. However, there is no guaranteed right that the petition will be granted.

How to Dissolve an HOA in Washington

The process for dissolution of an HOA in Washington may be set forth in the HOA’s governing documents. If it is not, the members of the HOA must agree by majority vote to dissolve the HOA.

An HOA can only be dissolved by an agreement of at least 80% of unit homeowners. If approved, the agreeing members will sign a termination agreement, settle any debts, dispose of assets belonging to the HOA. Necessary documentation, such as Articles of Dissolution, need to be filed with the Washington Secretary of State and recorded in every county where the HOA holds property to complete the dissolution.