Many people view homeowners associations as desirable organizations that prevent property values from dipping too low. However, one may question just how far an association is permitted to go in the name of regulation. Laws that govern HOAs can vary from state to state; however, most states have common elements among them.
In regards to the question of whether an association has access to a homeowner’s property, the first thing the owner should do is check the homeowners association’s agreement or bylaws. Within the legal document, the homeowner should be able to determine what rights are granted to the association explicitly. It is not unheard of for an association to change the house rules without any warning or notification to members. In other words, what may have been passable before may become a citation-worthy offense without the homeowner knowing until it’s too late. Additionally, just because a term is not stated in black in white doesn’t mean the homeowner’s association doesn’t have the right. The property owner should carefully read the agreement before it is ever signed to determine if the document gives the association any implied rights.
For example, the bylaws may state that the property owner’s presence within the neighborhood gives implicit consent for the homeowner’s association to come onto the property, whether the owner is home or not, for the purpose of inspection or complaint investigation. In the event the association initiates communication regarding an inspection and the homeowner denies access, the implicit consent clause lets the association onto the property whether or not the homeowner consents. That being said, they cannot force themselves through the front door against the owner’s will; they would only be able to inspect the exterior of the property. However, if the homeowners association has a copy of the key to the home, they can enter the home as they see fit.
Another example in which the HOA may enter the homeowner’s property is if a tenet of the association agreement has been violated: Perhaps the owner has broken a rule regarding outside décor or lawn ornamentation. If the owner fails to respond to citations by the association, he or she may be subject to fines or an unwanted visit from the homeowners association. While the association cannot harass the property owner, they can enforce the rules of the association code.
Property owners should be familiar with the most up-to-date statutes and laws for homeowners associations. Not every state has online statutes, so if the online resources are insufficient, it may be wise to speak to a real estate attorney.