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How To Bar HOA Rentals

Written by on Tuesday, 01 January 2002 6:00 pm

In some homeowner associations, the number of owners who rent their units is extraordinarily high, sometimes even outnumbering resident owners. With absentee owners and just a few irresponsible renters, there may be a move by the Board to limit or eliminate rentals altogether.

What issues need to be considered before starting a ban?

When it comes to sorting out rental restrictions, there is a hierarchy of "legal authority".

  1. The highest legal authority is the state's corporation, condominium and homeowner association statutes. Statutes vary from state to state.

  2. The second highest legal authority is the association Declaration which is recorded in the county where the association is located. This document "declares" that there is a homeowner association and outlines the framework and a legal description of the property. The Declaration defines the three components of HOA property ownership: common elements (property owned and used by all owners), limited common elements (property owned by all but used by one owner) and individual homes (owned and used by one owner).

  3. The third legal authority is the association Bylaws. The bylaws spell out the operating guidelines of the association.

  4. Resolutions are the fourth level of authority. Resolutions generally deal with multifaceted issues like parking and architectural control that require clear definition and enforcement provisions.

  5. Rules and Regulations is the fifth legal authority. They may be written in the Bylaws or enacted by the Board. They are more of the "thou shalt not..." directives and may or may not elaborate on what that means or what the consequences for violations.

The Board cannot enact a Resolution, Rule or Regulation that conflicts with one of the higher legal authorities. If the Bylaws permit rentals, the board cannot reduce or eliminate them. The change requires an amendment to the bylaws usually subject to a "super majority" vote of the owners. A super majority can be anywhere from 67 to 100% depending on language in your governing documents and interpretation from an attorney specializing in HOA law.

The mortgage loan market imposes restrictions on the percentage of rental units in a homeowner association. If rentals exceed those limits, purchasers or owners who want to refinance their units may find it difficult to get financing at normal rates, if at all. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and VA all have restrictions on the percent of units which can be rented.

Homeowner associations try to balance the right to rent versus restrictions imposed by lenders. The three most common ways are:

  • Rental Prohibitions. To ensure that such a bylaw amendment would pass, existing landlords would insist on their units being "grandfathered" (exempted from the prohibition). Such a concession would be unfair to some owners since other owners have greater rights. The amendment should also allow renting in hardship cases like job transfer or job loss.

  • Limiting The Number Of Rentals. This provision requires that the Board actively monitor the number of renters and establishment of a "waiting list" so all owners could at some point have rental rights.

  • Sunsetting Rentals. This is a variation of the "prohibition with grandfather" provision. By setting a deadline of, say, two years away, current landlords can continue to rent for a reasonable time and have time to market the home to an owner occupant. At the end of two years, all homes are expected to be owner occupied which levels the rental restriction playing field.

When owners purchase into a homeowner association, they are bound by the existing governing documents and all validly enacted amendments. However, the Board should keep in mind when amending and resolving that judges often side with property owners and their rights. If challenged, the association must defend a "greater good" theory such as: If the level of rentals is too great, mortgage loan options will be limited and negatively impact market values. If all owners buy into it, your job is easy. If not, you'll need to convince the judge.

For more information on this subject, see .

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  About the author, Richard Thompson

Individual news stories are based upon the opinions of the writer and does not reflect the opinion of Realty Times.