When Are Homeowners’ Association Regulations Unenforceable?

Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs) govern the rules and regulations of condominiums and other planned communities. Each HOA is governed by its Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, or what is referred to as CC&Rs. The CC&Rs limit the property owner’s rights to make architectural decisions, landscaping choices, and other rights pertaining to the community or individual properties. However, there are instances where the CC&Rs are unclear or conflict with other Arizona laws, and an action may be filed with the court to determine whether the regulations apply or whether they are unenforceable.

What happens when an HOA restriction is unclear? Courts look to the intent of the parties when agreeing to the CC&Rs, as in the case of Arizona Biltmore Estates Ass’n v. Tezak, 177 Ariz. 447, 868 P.2d 1030(App. 1993). The HOA regulation stated that “no trailer, camper, boat, or similar equipment” was permitted on the owner’s property. The property owner placed a large bus on the premises, arguing that it was not covered by the HOA regulation.

Even though buses were not mentioned in the restrictions, and the listed vehicles differed from buses in that they were more likely to be used as dwellings, the court looked to the parties’ intent, and noted that it was obvious that the parties intended to restrict the display of large, bulky, nonstandard vehicles. The bus was covered under the definition of similar equipment, and had to be removed.

Tezak shows how property owners can face restrictions that aren’t clearly spelled out by the HOA. Another case shows now an HOA can overstep their authority and have their restriction declared unenforceable. Garden Lakes Cmty. Ass’n v. Madigan, 204 Ariz. 238, 62 P.3d 983, (App. 2003).

In Garden Lakes, the HOA issued guidelines that homeowners had to follow in order to install solar panels on their homes. These included getting approval from the architectural review committee, and having the solar panels out of public view. The restrictions were contrary to Arizona law, however, as A.R.S § 33-439 outlaws any restriction or covenant which effectively prohibits the installation and use of solar energy devices.

The alternatives suggested by the HOA to make the solar energy devices comply with the restrictions were costly and not reasonable options. Therefore, the court in Garden Lakes concluded that the HOA restrictions violated A.R.S. § 33-439 and were unenforceable.

Chernoff Law handles business and real estate litigation matters throughout Arizona. Contact us to discuss your case with an experienced real estate attorney.