Covenants Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) in real estate are private agreements that are legally binding and accompany the sale contract. They are imposed by a homeowners’ association or property management company, and they bind buyers to certain rules and restrictions associated with the property.1 Covenants:
- Are rules governing the use of property
- Involve conditions and restrictions on the buyer
Communities impose these covenants in order to maintain property values and make clear guidelines for people to get along within development. While most of work well, sometimes there can be problems.
Purpose of CC&Rs
The purposes of CC&Rs in real estate are to maintain and add to the value of properties in a community. These agreements police owners so that all properties in the area are somewhat uniform and well maintained. Some common examples of regulations are:
- Quality of additions or structures added
- Lawn maintenance
- Paint color
- Property use
These are just some examples of how these agreements control how an owner may use the property.2
Find CC&Rs for Your Property
You can find CC&Rs in real estate for your property by contacting the homeowner’s association (HOA). Be prepared to pay a fee for lost documents.
- If you are buying a home your agent should provide a copy or at least a phone number for the HOA or management company.
- If you already own the property, then you should contact your HOA or management company directly.
Dealing with the HOA to get your documents can be tedious. Often, they will charge fees for the document. You may try looking online or asking a neighbor if you can copy theirs.3
CC&Rs Without an HOA
You can have CC&Rs without an HOA. Usually, this case arises because when the development was new there was an HOA, but through apathy or other issues that body no longer functions. However, covenants are part of the contract and legally binding of submitted correctly.
- If they are recorded with the county, they are legally binding
- They can be enforced by other homeowners in the community
- If the community adopts a new HOA, that body can enforce existing agreements
Not only can you have recorded covenants without an association, but they are also legally binding contracts.4
The main tool for CC&R enforcement available to an HOA is court action. Your covenant spells out the mechanisms used to enforce the rules. Often, the association will send a notice. Then, if the owner doesn’t comply, they will schedule a hearing with other owners. Finally, they will take legal action. The association is not allowed to:
- Evict residents
- Remove personal property
- Violate residents’ personal rights
If it goes that far a court may award monetary damages, impose injunctions, or compel the removal of personal property. They may empower the association to take action, or they may send the police to deal with the situation.5
Can CC&Rs be changed?
CC&Rs can be changed, but it may be complicated to do. The main two reasons to change an agreement are laws have changed and most owners want new arrangements (such as allowing pets). Therefore, make sure it is something that really needs to be changed before going to the trouble. If you really do need to change them:
- Contact an attorney
- Notify other homeowners about the changes you want to make
- Host open community meetings about the changes
- Get homeowners to vote for your proposal
- Hire a manager to help with the amendment process
As you can see it is a complicated procedure. Any time that you want to change a legal document it can get complicated. If you feel like you need to change your community’s covenants you really should start by talking to a lawyer.6
Are CC&Rs legally binding?
CC&Rs are legally binding documents. When you buy a house in a community governed by these you will sign documents that you understand and will abide by the covenants.
- These are recorded with the state
- They are difficult to amend
- They require a vote from members to make any changes
Most associations go through an enforcement process beginning with notification, then hearings, and finally legal action. The bottom line is that if you live in a community governed by these covenants you are legally obligated to abide by the agreement.7
CC&Rs in real estate are meant to help you get along with your neighbors better and maintain your property value. While some associations get overzealous enforcing requirements you should remember their purpose.
Before you buy your home ask your agent if the community has these, and then read them to understand if they are reasonable before you buy the house. You may want to talk to neighbors, too; and find out how well they like the HOA. It is best to know if you can live with these restrictions before you sign a contract.