Living in a house and being part of a neighborhood can be great until it begins to feel like your HOA is nitpicking everything you do. You may begin to wonder, “Is my HOA targeting me?”
Litigation attorney Joe Novak explains some of the things you can do if you feel targeted by your HOA.
HOA Targeting You?
Call 303-688-0944 to begin your free case assessment.
If you live in a community that has an HOA, you may have already discovered that its rules and by-laws can occasionally seem overly strict or even created to lay siege to your outdoor Christmas decorations or potted ferns on your porch.
What can you do when you feel your HOA is enforcing its rules on you while allowing others to ignore the same rules?
What is an HOA?
Generally speaking, when you buy a home that’s part of a planned community you will most likely be part of a homeowner’s association, or an HOA. The HOA is a legal entity. It’s set up to manage and maintain the neighborhood.
Who’s Involved in the HOA?
The HOA’s members usually consist of the neighborhood’s homeowners. The original developer of the community often sets up the HOA.
It’s governed by declarations, agreements, rules and restrictions, and bylaws.
The main function of the HOA is to collect fees, maintain the neighborhood, and enforce the rules of the community. That helps to maintain your standard of living in the community. In turn, it protects your property values.
Legal Protections for HOA Members
Colorado has laws that provide protections for members of an HOA. These protections include debt collection practices, foreclosure, and landscaping among other things.
The Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act, or CCIOA, is the Colorado statute that governs HOAs.
Regulations for HOAs
The CCIOA’s declarations, covenants, and rules and regulations dictate the actions of your HOA. That means your HOA’s own rules must follow state guidelines. So when it comes to your HOA enforcing its own rules, the HOA must follow the procedures outlined in its bylaws.
The potted fern example from earlier is a good case in point. Your HOA cannot insist on the fern’s removal as long as there’s nothing in the bylaws that prohibits potted plants on your stoop.
These state regulations protect homeowners from obscure HOA enforcement. If your HOA is trying to enforce a rule that does not seem to exist, you can refer to the CCIOA to ensure your HOA is complying with Colorado law.
Colorado law, for example, requires the HOA to hold annual meetings.
Must Your HOA Notify You of Upcoming Meetings?
While CCIOA does require that the meetings of HOA boards be open to homeowners, it does not require that the owners are notified of regular and special meetings.
Since the CCIOA does not specifically require notice, check your HOA’s bylaws to determine whether notice is required to be provided to the homeowners.
CCIOA does require that agendas for board meetings be made reasonably available to the homeowners or their representatives.
When a situation arises that needs more immediate attention, the CCIOA requires the HOA to hold a special meeting. Notification requirements for special meetings may apply. Check your HOA’s bylaws to see if special meeting notification differs from annual meetings.
It’s Up to You, the Homeowner
Essentially, it’s your responsibility to find out when routine meetings are held and whether they are routine or called to deal with a specific issue, like your potted palm.
In addition, the CCIOA encourages, but does not require, associations to provide notices and agendas for board meetings electronically. For example, posting a notice on a neighborhood website is one way to communicate a meeting is scheduled.
Do You Have a Right to Review HOA Records?
As a member of an HOA, it’s important that you communicate with it and regularly request information. For example, as a member you are entitled to inspect your HOA’s records. These records include the minutes, or notes, from board meetings, as well as the financial health of your HOA.
As a member of the HOA, you are entitled to see:
- financial records
- tax returns
- contact information for board members of the HOA
- contact information for members of the HOA
You can also request to look at the outcomes of designer architectural approval requests.
These are just some of the documents you are entitled to review as a member of an HOA.
If you feel your HOA is specifically targeting you by enforcing rules against you while turning a blind eye to neighbors who break those same rules, we recommend you consider legal action.
How An Attorney Can Help Resolve Your HOA Issue
The first step is to confirm whether your HOA is treating you unfairly. A member of our Litigation Team can review your issue and determine the best legal strategy to resolve the problem.
Typically, we would begin with a letter to the HOA demanding all relevant documentation. We want to make sure that whatever rule the HOA is trying to enforce on you is enforceable.
Here’s what we would request from the HOA:
- Documentation that the HOA has complied with with its own rules
- Proof that the HOA has complied with CCIOA rules
If the rules were not properly adopted, then they cannot be legally enforced.
Once your attorney has received the relevant documentation, he or she will sit down with you to discuss what it reveals.
We’ll go over whether we believe the HOA is specifically targeting you. We will look at whether the HOA has failed to comply with its own rules and regulations, and whether it has violated Colorado law.
If it turns out that the HOA has acted improperly, you and your team will discuss your legal options.
Typical Legal Options
Often times, a strongly-worded demand letter will take care of the issue. In general, we would let the HOA know we are prepared to file a lawsuit if it does not comply with its own rules and apply them fairly.
CCIOA includes a provision that the HOA must act in good faith in its dealings with you.
If the HOA has specifically targeted you and has applied a rule only against you while ignoring other community members’ violations, you may have a strong case against the HOA for failing to to deal with you fairly and in good faith.
How Much Could This Cost in Legal Fees?
Your legal fees depend on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, whether your case can be settled out of court. Trials are expensive. Arbitration and mediation are alternative ways to settlement a dispute, and these can less costly than going to court.
Now, the CCIOA includes a provision for attorneys fees. That means, if you win the case against your HOA, the HOA must pay your legal fees.
It’s important to note, though, that the attorneys fees provision cuts both ways. If you end up suing the HOA and the HOA wins, you may be liable for the HOA’s attorney’s fees.
That’s why it is incredibly important to discuss all of your legal options with an HOA attorney.
Connect with an Experienced HOA Attorney
There’s no reason you should be singled out by your HOA to follow a rule or regulation that no other resident is required to follow. One of our experienced HOA attorneys can help you determine the right course of action to get your HOA to treat you fairly.
Robinson and Henry can help you through this process. Our HOA attorneys know CCIOA rules and can advise you throughout the process. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your free case assessment.