In Washington State, 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 Washington?
In Washington, the Washington Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act found at Wash. Rev. Code § 64.90.010, et seq. (“WUCIOA”) 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 Restriction, and other rules and regulations.
HOAs in Washington may also be subject to applicable federal laws such as:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; and
- The Fair Housing Act.
HOAs may also be subject to certain state laws such as:
- Title 64 of the Revised Code of Washington at Chapter 64.38;
- The Washington Nonprofit Corporation Act;
- The Washington State Civil Rights Act; and
- The Washington Consumer Protection Act.
How to Find HOA Rules/Laws 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, you can obtain these records online by using the Washington State Corporations and Charities Filing System. On this site, homeowners can 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 Washington
In Washington, an HOA has the power to:
- Collect assessments for common expenses;
- Regulate common areas;
- Enter your property to maintain common elements;
- 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.
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 Fine You in Washington? If So, by How Much?
In Washington, an HOA may 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):
- 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; or
- 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 Your House in Washington?
An HOA can foreclose on your house in Washington for unpaid liens. However, an HOA cannot foreclosure 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 Your Property in Washington?
In Washington an HOA may enter your property 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.
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 I File a Complaint Against my 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 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 Washington State Human Rights Commission, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or file a private lawsuit in federal or state court.
Otherwise, a homeowner can bring a claim in state court in the appropriate county.
Joining & Leaving an HOA in Washington
In Washington, if you purchase a home in a neighborhood with a preexisting HOA, you must join and abide by the HOA rules. You should be presented with documents explaining the HOA and its rules at the closing for your home purchase.
If you bought a house in a neighborhood with an HOA you will not have the option to simply 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 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 vote to dissolve the HOA. Prior to voting, the HOA must give notice of the proposed dissolution to all members entitled to vote.
An HOA can only be dissolved by a vote of two thirds of all the voting owners. 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, such as Articles of Dissolution, with the Washington Secretary of State to complete the dissolution.