Legalese — Homeowners’ Associations

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Homeowners’ Associations are the butt of a lot of jokes, but there is a reason why they are so common.  Many people like what they have to offer.  They like living in neighborhoods with common amenities like pools and tennis courts.  They like living in neighborhoods that will ensure a certain aesthetic.  They have certain standards and they want to make sure that their neighbors do, too. 

Someone has to regulate these things, decide what the rules are, and take the heat when someone (inevitably) chafes under the rules.  It’s a common joke that the homeowners’ police come out with a tape measure and if your lawn is one-quarter of an inch too long you will get a fine, or if you have one too many garden gnomes you will be assessed a penalty.  It’s true that sometimes those things can be overly fastidious in the eyes of some, but like everything, lines have to be drawn somewhere.  If you want to make sure you live in a neighborhood where there is authority to do something about it if someone’s lawn is weedy and overgrown, there has to be a standard set.  Just like a speed limit – if the speed limit is 30 and you are going 31 miles an hour, you are technically speeding. 

So who gives the authority to the people who set and enforce the rules?  Partly the law, and partly the contract.  The law, Article Six of Title 44 of the Georgia Code, found in 44-3-220 et seq, which “shall be known and may be cited as the “Georgia Property Owners’ Association Act.”’ O.C.G.A. 44-3-220 establishes a set of guidelines which allow for Homeowners’ Associations, how to form them, and how they are basically regulated. 

O.C.G.A. 44-3-222 says that the Homeowners’ Association comes into being when a declaration making it so is filed saying that the owners of the property contained within its borders so elected it.  Once it is filed, every lot owner within it has to comply.  You can’t opt out.  Even if you don’t swim or play tennis, you still have to pay your portion of the dues that pay for the expenses that cover maintenance for the swimming pool and tennis courts.  O.C.G.A.  44-3-225.

The Homeowners’ Association has to be a corporation in its own right.  The corporation has to have meetings, and there have to be quorums at the meetings.  It is at these meetings that the specific rules (grass height, color of mailboxes, roof style, etc.) are determined.  Notice has to be given to each homeowner at least 21 days in advance of any regularly scheduled meeting, and at least 7 days in advance of any special meeting.  There are specific rules about how you have to be notified.  See O.C.G.A. 44-3-230 for those rules.  They are too tedious to list here. 

If you don’t like the rules, you should go to the meeting and argue that the rules should be changed.  Don’t buck the rules – and certainly don’t fail to pay your fines.  The Homeowners’ Association has the right to put a lien on your house and collect interest in unpaid fines.  This could make it difficult to sell your house or even result in foreclosure.  Pretty drastic result. 

If you’re the kind of person who chafes against restrictions, don’t live in the kind of community that has strict rules.  There’s lots of property in Georgia that is Homeowners’ Association free.  If you live there, you can have a purple mailbox and as many pink flamingos in your long grass for your chickens to graze amongst as you like.     

Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only. 

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