A homeowners association works almost as if they are a mini-government, making and enforcing their own laws. As a real estate attorney, I get calls almost weekly asking about restrictions, by-laws and the enforceability of each. Turns out HOAs have a decent amount of power if the restrictions grant such power and if the rules and restrictions are subsequently enforced timely. HOA restrictions run with the land. This means that once formal restrictions have been filed in the conveyance records of the Clerk of Court of the Parish in which the immovable property is located the HOA can enforce these “laws” against in homeowner in the subdivision. Some common restrictions that I see are:
- restrictions on type and number of vehicles allowed in the driveway
- prohibitions on certain fence types and heights
- architectural committee requirements for new homes and structures
- restricting non-residential use (i.e. no home offices)
- specifications on color palettes and materials used
These are just a few common restrictions that could affect the way you live at and enjoy your home. Additionally, the HOA has the power to enforce and regulate dues. A Homeowners Association Privilege is granted by Louisiana Law at RS: 9:1141.9 and states: “In addition to any other remedies provided by law or by the community documents for nonpayment of assessments, a homeowners association…may utilize the provisions…establishing a privilege on lots of delinquent of owners for nonpayment of assessments.” This means that by law an HOA may put a lien on the property of a homeowner that is not paying their required dues on their home.
So, you’re thinking about buying in a subdivision with an HOA? What should you do to ensure you will be able to enjoy your new home the way you prefer? First, ask to see the restrictions. The seller should be able to provide these and, if not, they are public at the Clerk of Court. Additionally, I recommend working with a real estate agent that is familiar with the area and that particular subdivision. Agents can provide you more information than just what the documents say. And don’t be afraid to ask the neighbors! Other owners in the neighborhood can be a great resource for finding out the ends and outs of the HOA.