Looking to buy a home? Depending on where you’re searching, homeowners’ associations — or HOAs — can be quite prevalent, and with them comes their CC&Rs. These are a significant part of HOAs, and you should get to know them, what they can entail, and your own preferences to ensure you make a well-informed decision on such an important purchase.
A quick rundown on CC&Rs
CC&Rs stand for “covenants, conditions, and restrictions.” They’re decided by a homeowners’ association, which means, if you live in an HOA’s jurisdiction, you get to deal with CC&Rs. HOAs are particularly associated with planned communities, so you’ll find them more often in the suburbs than in the city or in rural settings.
Essentially, CC&Rs are “the rules” of the homeowners’ association. Generally, their purpose is to ensure higher property values, which in and of itself comes with pros and cons.
Some HOAs will have pretty unobtrusive CC&Rs; others can feel somewhat over-the-top.
Violating a CC&R — no matter how silly the rule might seem — can result in fines, suspension of access to community amenities, and even lawsuits. Because of this, someone buying a house in a homeowners’ association is required to sign an agreement acknowledging they understand the CC&Rs and will comply with them before the purchase can be completed.
Naturally, this is something to pay attention to when buying a home, since not doing so and finding yourself in conflict with the CC&Rs down the line is something you’d want to avoid. You may come across something within the CC&Rs that you’re not a fan of but can deal with — but you could also find yourself dealing with a portion of the CC&Rs that opposes your fundamental future plans for your home. Obviously, that would be an issue that could likely have you rethinking owning a home in that area.
Beyond familiarizing yourself with CC&Rs during the purchase, they’re also something to double-check if you’re already a homeowner and plan on renovating a part of your house or doing any sort of substantial project. Otherwise, violating your HOA’s CC&Rs could cost you money and generally be a huge headache.
What can be addressed in CC&Rs?
There are a bunch of different items that CC&Rs may address. Some examples include:
- Roofing or siding material
- Paint colors
- Landscaping, lawncare, and management of the outdoor portions of your property
- Allowable pets
- Trash and recycling storage
- Vehicle storage and overnight guest parking
Generally speaking, the exterior of your home and property are the most affected by CC&Rs, although there are situations wherein CC&Rs could impact your interior, too. For example, some stricter HOAs will have a say in interior elements of your home if they’re visible from outside.
Because CC&Rs can vary so much from HOA to HOA, it’s impossible for us to cover everything (or even most things) in here. We cannot stress enough, if you live somewhere with CC&Rs, to check them before you start a project on your home — failure to do so could mean you invest a bunch of time, money, and energy into something, only for the HOA to fine you plus make you invest even more time, money, and energy into fixing whatever it is you’ve done to be CC&R-compliant. A situation like that is a huge pain in the neck.
Beyond easily-visible exterior modifications, some other common parts include utilities and, if you’re in a townhome, condo, or duplex, structural features. Unlike many aspects of CC&Rs whose purpose is to keep the neighborhood looking a certain way, these CC&R features are included because they can directly impact your neighbors.
Utilities like electric and plumbing are usually communal; if altering your own electric setup, for instance, screwing that up could negatively affect your neighbors’ electricity. As a further example, you’d be perfectly fine just replacing a bathroom sink without getting permission, but you could need HOA approval if you’re doing a full bathroom renovation that involves altering electrical and plumbing placement.
Similarly, townhome, condo, or duplex HOAs involve homes that are attached to each other. Subsequently, the shared structural aspects of two neighbors’ homes means these HOAs tend to have more extensive home-interior rules, usually regarding load-bearing and other structurally integral features. Obviously you don’t want to rip out a wall on an interior renovation and have the whole block come tumbling down!
CC&Rs aren’t for everybody; some of us appreciate the continuity they can provide a neighborhood, while for others the restrictions feel like they’re preventing you from bringing your dream home to fruition.
Regardless of your feelings on CC&Rs, it’s important to familiarize yourself — if you’re searching for a home, on what the various CC&Rs in your area require and how they differ, whether you’d like to live somewhere with or without them, and what your preferences are versus how much you’re willing to compromise for a home that you otherwise love. Just like so much about homeownership, it comes down to your own personal preferences, and your priorities in finding and creating your dream home.