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HOA Renter Rights

Written by on Tuesday, 10 March 2009 7:00 pm
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One of the issues that many HOAs grapple with is renters. Some ban them outright, others limit their number. Most live and let live. Interestingly, the HOA has no direct legal authority over renters, only its members. This disconnect creates some practical problems for the board or manager in communicating with tenants since there is always a middle person to deal with. So how does this all play out?

Rules Enforcement. The HOA has the right to expect all residents, whether owner or renter, to play by the rules. But with renters, it's up to the landlord to enforce them, not the HOA. So, the board should adopt a policy that requires all landlords to provide a set of the governing documents and all rules that have been adopted that affect the renter. The Board can also require that all rental agreements specifically make reference to and be subject to those documents. If a tenant violates a rule, the landlord should be informed of it immediately along with the expectation of enforcement. If there is a fine or penalty, the landlord should be levied for it as if he did the dirty deed himself. It's up to the landlord to get reimbursement from the tenant.

There are several exceptions to the landlord middle man enforcement process. If a tenant parks illegally in a fire lane, the HOA has the authority to have the car towed and the tenant will, naturally, pay to retrieve the car. There are some things the HOA should not interfere or get involved with. When a renter crosses the line between HOA rule and civil law infraction, the HOA has the right to call in proper authorities. Those authorities include the police, fire safety, FBI and drug enforcement.

Short vs. Long Term Rentals. Most HOAs deal with renters who have entered into long term rental agreements (30 days or more). Most governing documents, in fact, require that the rental agreement be long term to avoid what would be a hotel operation. In resort areas, (mountains, beach, etc.) the HOA may have been expressly built and sold allowing owners to rent their homes short term. (These homes or units are owned outright and are not timeshares with professional site management.) However, unless virtually every owner has that in mind, there will be an ongoing clash between permanent residents and short term renters. Short termers have no allegiance to the community, don't know the neighbors and frequently are in party mode.

These factors point to ongoing problems with the locals. If this is a reality, it's important for the board to press for consensus among the owners. If the majority want the flexibility to short term rent, it makes sense to have an onsite manager to control these issues and others like key exchange and housekeeping. The manager could be funded partly by the HOA to handle regular maintenance and partly by landlords to care for rentals. It's a win/win.

Controlling Tenants. Renters generally are no better or worse than owner residents. Ongoing problems result from lack of landlord standards (or enforcement of those standards) by the HOA. Here are Landlord Standards which all HOAs should adopt:

  • Landlords must provide a set of governing documents (CC&Rs) and rules to renters before move in.

  • HOA rules & regulations must be a condition of all rental agreements.

  • Landlords are held accountable for renter infractions.

  • Renters must communicate requests to the HOA through the landlord.

  • Board may demand termination of a tenant with multiple rule violations.

  • Landlord must provide a copy of each rental agreement to ensure compliance with the HOA's standards and for emergency contact purposes.

Renter Surcharges & Fees. Some HOAs impose a Move In/Move Out or Renter Fee on landlords. Unless this fee is imposed on all residents, owner or renter, it is discriminatory. If a particular renter causes damage to the common area moving in or out, the landlord should be charged for it. Never surcharge classes of residents.

Communicating with Landlords. All tenant violations should be directed to the landlord in writing along with specifics, including date and time. The communication should be clear on what the landlord's course of action should be. It should also reinforce that it's up to the landlord, not the HOA, to deal with a renter.

Limiting Rentals. At one time or another, someone may press to limit rentals. There are right reasons for doing so, but avoid the wrong one: The belief that renters are undesirable. While some tenants may be problems, so are some owners. Each must be dealt with as individuals, not a class. The only valid reason for limiting rentals is to protect financing and market values. Many lenders view HOAs with a high number of rentals as investment property. Investor loans are more expensive and in a tight market, loans may be hard to get. Since availability of cheap money drives market values, it's important to avoid lender restrictions. Although there is no hard and fast guideline, maintaining at least two-thirds owner occupancy seems to pass muster with most lenders. Falling below that level causes closer scrutiny by some lenders. When lenders scrutinize, it usually means the interest rate or fees go up. Restricted financing options cause market values to fall.

Limiting rentals to protect financing is a worthy rationale for doing so. However, placing a system in place that allows some owners to rent but not others has many problems. The board must oversee the rental restriction policy and establish guidelines for who gets to rent and when. Also, there will be hardship cases (disability, job loss, down real estate market, etc.) that will press the board to bend the policy.

And consider if a landlord simply ignores the restriction and rents his unit. The HOA has control over the owner but not tenants who are protected by Landlord-Tenant laws. For a variety of reasons, if limiting rentals is desirable, it should apply to all owners. A total ban on rentals doesn't completely eliminate the board's oversight, but it at least makes it fair to all owners. (For a sample Rental Restriction Policy, see Regenesis.net .)

Renters Have Rights. After considering the various issues, it's important to remember that renters have rights that must be respected. Besides the state Landlord-Tenant laws, the Fair Housing Act speaks to unreasonable rental restrictions. Never impose restrictions based on sex, faith, culture or race. When it comes to HOA renters, do the right thing.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, see Regenesis.net .

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  About the author, Richard Thompson

12 comments

  • Comment Link kendra Tuesday, 25 November 2014 6:25 pm posted by kendra

    I need help i am royal palm the hoa lives on complex but she doesn't think my brother or kids father should be here because of an old background they don't hang out outside they exactly work from 7am to about 8pm so no time for hanging out they have told our business to other people now people that said hi will not speak if we open our door they watch us if we walk down yhe street they watch we have also been informed that they have told people to take pictures of them when they come by need help and need to know what can i do i feel like an prisoner in my own house where we pay $1200 to live

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  • Comment Link -YU Monday, 17 November 2014 9:43 pm posted by -YU

    My husband is active duty and deployed. We have a 2 yr lease. I recently accrued HOA fines for yard maintenance. I paid the hefty fine and now I Am receiving a force mow fee. My landlord communicates these fines and notices with my husband via email. Wouldn't we be covered under the Service Members Civil Relief Act?

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  • Comment Link Joseph Baker Tuesday, 04 November 2014 5:36 pm posted by Joseph Baker

    The HOA where I rent a condo from has been locking the laundry rooms. They do not do it regularly nor is there a scheduled time. Periodically someone with a key decides to get off their couch and lock the door. There is nothing in the HOA By-Laws/Rules and Regulations discussing the Laundry Facilities and there are no hours of operation. I had all of my clothes in the washing machine and when I came down, 25 min later, the door was locked and there is no number to call to have it unlocked. I was leaving town the following morning and I could not gain access to the laundry facility to get my things. I had to leave the there until I returned a few days later. When I did return, I found my clothes piled in the corner, on the floor and they appeared to have been thrown their still wet. I re washed everything and began to notice articles of clothes missing. Someone had gone through my stuff and stolen hundreds of dollars worth of clothes. Other days the laundry facility is left unlocked and open all night. What can I do?

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  • Comment Link becky Saturday, 25 October 2014 7:59 am posted by becky

    I recently moved back into my apt. I had shared with my boy friend.it has been seventeen years here and never once have I had this problem with the hoa.not even when my landlord had a property management take care of these three units he owns.now the president of hoa owns and lives here in the complex with I believe her girlfriend who claims to be the manager.????? She shared some info she probably should have kept to herself,which is the owner claims she doesn't want the responssbilty of management and has allowed the girlfriend to assume this,she claimed. Now this girlfriend totally avoids the position by refusing to answer the phone or the door.she even went as far to say alot of times she will park on another street and walk in so tenants will not bother her cuz they wont see her car.now this is a person who involves themselves with the how whatever,just a power trip.she lives with the president of how as I mentioned.so tell how or who one complains to about several issues of violations with landlord tenant act as well as all my landlord at this point knows to say is they have to follow hoa rules.but yet the how is totally falsifying what they claim is getting done and taken care of on theses grounds.can any one give some advice on this matter?

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  • Comment Link BEP Sunday, 03 August 2014 10:00 pm posted by BEP

    Lisa,

    Have your pet dog declared a service needs animal for your son. The mother of all lawsuits is on your team if the HOA wants to press it.

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  • Comment Link Ronni Monday, 14 July 2014 12:53 pm posted by Ronni

    This is question I am leasing a home in the state of Georgia, there is no HOA in the subdivision were I am, can the landlord still enforce HOA fee every month? Can someone out there help me with an answer?

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  • Comment Link SG Monday, 23 June 2014 1:54 pm posted by SG

    VERY PRO-HOA. It's not this simplistic. If an owner purchased a condo "in reliance" on the ability to rent it, and there was no advanced notice that the HOA intended to restrict or eliminate rentals, there would be the makings of quite a lawsuit.

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  • Comment Link lisa Wednesday, 18 June 2014 2:07 am posted by lisa

    I agree hoa are a bunch of old miserable people that have nothing better to do with there life. I just rented a townhouse 2 months ago. Our landlord said we are allowed to have a dog and we signed a year lease stating with dog. Now the landlord gets a letter saying tenants r not allowed to have a dog n we have to get rid of it or she will be fined $50. A day. My kids are devastated over this. I have a special needs son who gets therapeutic help from the dog. I would of never moved here if we couldnt have a dog. N dont have the financial means to move. I just got ny kids all setteled. I know I have protection from my lease but then I causes my landlord issues n im sure its going to cause fights with us. Is there anyway to try to protest this horribile law that owners can have a dog but renters cant

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  • Comment Link Andrew Saturday, 24 May 2014 1:26 pm posted by Andrew

    Contact your State's board that oversees lawyers. They will refer you to a lawyer that does "pro bono" work. As in free. I had a lawyer help me out when I was a student.

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  • Comment Link Steven T. Furgeson Wednesday, 30 April 2014 5:49 am posted by Steven T. Furgeson

    This seems like HOA propaganda. It weighs heavily in favor of HOA's and pisses on the renter/landlord....while it might be *legal*, it's not right. HOA's are nothing short of bullshit communist organizations that live to make people miserable. They are governed by embittered retired people and angry housewives that have no lives and out of their bitterness or boredom or both, they need nits to pick. These are likely the same shitfucks that told on your when you said a bad word in high school. They'd do it not because it offended them, but because they were losers that had no life and sought attention by any means necessary...so getting people in trouble became a hobby/means of obtaining the attention mommy and daddy wouldn't give them as children.

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  • Comment Link vc Monday, 17 March 2014 10:22 am posted by vc

    I'm curious, it has been over 30 days, has this issue been resolved, or did you relocate? I am in a similar situation. I have been renting my unit in a condominium community for over 3 years. I have been repeatedly harassed by the Executive Board of the HOA since I moved in. They have the right to be upset, as the large number of "renters" affects their property value. However, I have the right to be respected. I do not violate rules or cause trouble. There is an on-going issue with a trash bylaw, however, due to the style of my unit, their is no way to be in compliance with this rule. This should not be an issue that is continually taken out on me, nor my landlord, as we did not build the units! Best of luck, hope you stand your ground!

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  • Comment Link dc Friday, 07 February 2014 6:15 am posted by dc

    I'm renting a condo where the HOA prohibits renters all together. There were some issues between the homeowner and the HOA that we were not aware of before moving in. Members of the board of directors are harassing us daily and one resident in particular threatened to call the cops on me for playing hockey with my two young sons in a common area on the property. The HOA just sent us a certified letter that we have 30 days to vacate the premises. I'm a grad student and I'm on a fixed income. I don't have the means to move and I'm I won't stand for being harassed by these people daily. What can be done in this situation? The homeowner says don't worry about it...

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