Who enforces Covenants Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) and/or deed restrictions without a homeowner’s association (HOA)? While they help maintain the appearance and value of properties in a community, they can be difficult to enforce without any governing body.
- You can have CC&Rs with an HOA
- You must act on your own if there is no HOA
- CC&Rs are often a public record, but not always
Without an HOA you, as a homeowner, bear the responsibility of enforcing covenants in your community, but always try to be patient and understanding. Only go to court as a last resort.
What are Neighborhood Covenants?
U.S. Legal has an excellent post about that concisely describes neighborhood covenants and why they are important. They point out that a neighborhood covenant:
- is a rule governing the use of real property
- Becomes a binding contract term when legally recorded and so it may be enforced
- Is still legally binding to signatories even if not recorded
- Differs from a zoning ordinance because it is between private parties instead of one party being the government
The last point is very import if you need to determine who enforces these rules when there is not HOA. Because it is a private matter it is a civil, rather than a criminal, matter.
Who Enforces CC&Rs Without an HOA?
You can have active CC&Rs without an HOA. The HOA simply enforces the CC&Rs. When you sign the document, in most cases they become binding, whether there is an HOA or not. In other cases, your state or local government may not record it with the deed. In this case, the ability for you to enforce the covenants dies when the HOA goes away.
- Civil code may allow homeowners to enforce CC&Rs if the agreement is deeded with the property.
- If your area does not record it as a legal document, you may not be able to enforce covenants.
Most states allow homeowners to enforce CC&Rs even if there is no HOA because each homeowner agreed and signed legal documents that become binding.1
Who Enforces Deed Restrictions When There Is No HOA?
In most cases, you, as a homeowner, can enforce a covenant without an HOA. However, it depends on how your deed is structured. If you live in a community that has CC&Rs but not an HOA, you should:
- Start by discussing the issue with the homeowner and see why they aren’t complying.
- Get together with other residents and draft a legal document stating the grievance.
- File a lawsuit against the offending homeowner and take them to court.
It is always better to try and resolve the issue without getting the courts involved. If you talk to your neighbor about why they aren’t complying you may find that they have a problem and can’t keep up with home maintenance. You may find that they simply don’t want to and believe the covenants aren’t binding. Once they realize they may be subject to civil litigation it may resolve the issue.
On the other hand, you may need to get other neighbors involved. As a last resort, you can go to court. If this happens you must balance the benefit of a court requiring them to comply versus the expense of litigation.2
Are Deed Restrictions Public Records and Enforceable?
In most cases, CC&Rs are part of the deed. Therefore, they are a public record. This is not always the case, though.
- Some states record them as legal documents with the deed
- Other areas do not record them or view them as legal documents
Most states record them as legal documents. When you buy your home, you sign it with all the other legal documents you must sign at closing. You should take the time to find out how your state and local government view CC&Rs.
Your county clerk, realtor, or attorney should be able to tell you how your local government views covenants in your area. Take some time to find out your legal standing before you confront your neighbor.
Do Homeowners Enforce Deed Restrictions When There is No HOA?
Most of the time individual homeowners must take it upon themselves to enforce deed restrictions when there is no HOA. Without a governing body, it is up to neighbors that live in the community to police the covenants.
Police won’t come into your community and enforce CC&Rs like local laws. First, they don’t know your community’s rules. Second, they aren’t laws that the government enacts.
- Your neighbors do not violate any laws when they violate CC&Rs
- You cannot bring a criminal complaint against them
- Your legal recourse is civil litigation for a breach of contract
If your community does not have an HOA you (or one of your neighbors) are the one who enforces CC&Rs. Further, your recourse is civil litigation.
A Personal Story About Enforcing CC&Rs Without an HOA
The best course of action is always to confront your neighbor in a nice way and find out why they aren’t complying with your community’s covenants. I was in a violation where I live because I didn’t mow my lawn and let the grass grow out of control. That may sound bad, but how things got to that point and the resolution may give you some inspiration for how to handle your own situation.
I paid a mom-and-pop lawn care service to cut my grass every week, but the owner had a heart attack and died. The wife was grief-stricken and didn’t call their clients. After a couple of weeks, I called them and found out that no one would come to mow my lawn.
I got my lawnmower out of my garage, the one I hadn’t used in several years. It wouldn’t start, so I took it to a local repair shop. They told me it needed a part that they needed to order.
By this time four weeks had gone by and my lawn was out of control. I was too embarrassed to even look at my neighbors. However, one brave neighbor knocked on my door and asked me about my lawn. Further, he loaned his mower, so I could mow my lawn. The next week I got mine back.
This incident brought me closer to my neighbor. I learned that I could count on the people who live around me when I have a problem. Also, I want to help my neighbors any time they need help, too.
Final Thoughts About Who Enforces CC&Rs and Deed Restrictions Without an HOA
If you don’t have an HOA you should enforce CC&Rs on your own. Approach your neighbor with the attitude of helping rather than accusing. If you can’t resolve the situation get your other neighbors involved. Only bring a lawsuit as a last resort. However, know your local laws in case you do need to go to this step.
If you live in a Planned Urban Development (PUD) or a condominium with common area maintenance (CAM) agreement you should never have this problem. The structure of the property necessitates an HOA.