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5 Reasons to Potentially Sue Your HOA

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

If you're not happy with your homeowners' association (HOA) or housing development, you may be able to sue.

When you moved into a condo or housing development, you may have been asked to read and sign an elaborately worded tome called "Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions" (CC&Rs). These governing documents are typically set by the board members and board of directors. Sometimes the management company sets the rules or enforces them.

HOA and Community Association Rules

Generally, CC&Rs spell out what you can and cannot do in and outside of your home. If you violate these HOA rules, you could potentially be sued by your HOA, forced to move out, or forced to conform. The HOA community rules are used to keep the entire community looking tidy, keep property values high, and regulate things like landscaping and holiday decor.

Lawsuits for HOA Bylaws, Alleged Violations, Assessments, and Routine Inspections

Your relationship with your HOA or housing development is not a one-way street for lawsuits. Just as they can potentially sue you, you can also sue them.

Here are five common reasons you may want to sue your HOA:

  1. Harassment or discrimination. Your HOA/housing development is free to establish a lot of rules. However, if these rules are based on "protected characteristics" like your race, marital status, the number of kids you have, etc., the rules may not be allowed under housing discrimination laws. For example, the HOA management company can't do "routine inspections" only on homes of homeowners of a specific race.
  2. Contract violations. The CC&Rs are basically a contract. Just as property owners are required to follow the rules, your HOA should also follow its own rules. So if the HOA decides to install an expensive swimming pool or wants to add a noisy business as a first-floor tenant, you may be able to sue to enforce your rights if these violate your contract.
  3. Misappropriation of funds. Every month, you pay hundreds of dollars to your HOA. But do you know where this money is going? If you see an exorbitant amount of money going to HOA board members' lunches or attorney's fees, you may be able to take legal action to stop it.
  4. Remodeling disputes. You want to add a bedroom to your condo, but your HOA says you can't. The CC&Rs, however, is silent on the issue. If your HOA is unwilling to bend, you may have to sue to see if you can remodel your home the way you'd like.
  5. Repairs. You are paying your HOA dues for a reason. If your HOA is slow to make necessary repairs, it may take a lawsuit (or the threat of a lawsuit) to light a fire under them.

Can I Sue My HOA For Selective Enforcement?

Selective enforcement is a legal term for the homeowners’ association only following certain rules. Enforcement of the rules should apply across the board and to everyone in the community. If the HOA only enforces a particular rule or only takes action against a particular homeowner, there could be legal considerations. In some cases, they might claim rule violations against a small group of homeowners but not the entire community.

Can I Sue My HOA in Small Claims Court?

Yes, you can generally sue your HOA in small claims court if the dispute is for $10,000 or less. It is quite common to take dispute resolution to the small claims court of your state. You will have to pay filing fees and may need to represent yourself, though some attorneys will represent you for a fee.

An HOA of a condo or housing development generally has the duty to represent the best interests of all tenants or homeowners in the association. But if your HOA fails to do its job, it may be time to consult an experienced real estate lawyer near you.

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