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All About Texas HOAs: Powers, Rights and Responsibilities

Homeowners associations (HOAs) have been a fixture in the U.S. real estate market for years. These organizations are typically set up by developers to provide guidelines for homeowners regarding the maintenance and general appearance of their properties. Property owners within these developments usually pay an annual assessment to the HOA to cover the costs of shared projects. Scheduling a consultation with a firm that specializes in Houston real estate law can provide insight into the rights and responsibilities associated with HOAs in the state of Texas.

The History of the HOA

While Homeowner Associations have existed in one form or another for more than 150 years, it was not until the 1960s that these organizations truly came into their own in the United States. Prior to that time, HOA agreements often were used to exclude certain groups from existing communities. In 1968, the Fair Housing Act eliminated these types of HOA agreements. Regulations governing eligibility for federal mortgage insurance also played a significant role in boosting the popularity and use of HOAs in condominium communities and in suburban areas. The passage of the 1977 U.S. Clean Water Act provided financial incentives for real estate developers to establish HOAs to oversee the storm water retention and remediation required by this legislation.

What Do HOAs Do?

In most cases, HOAs provide maintenance for shared public areas that may include swimming pools, parks and green space. They may also enforce covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) regarding the appearance and proper maintenance of each property in the neighborhood. Some common stipulations included in the HOA agreement include the following:

  • Required yard maintenance and home upkeep
  • Landscaping guidelines
  • Restrictions on excessive noise
  • Parking regulations for residents and guests
  • Installation of sheds, playhouses, basketball hoops and other outbuildings and structures
  • Vehicle storage, including boats and RVs
  • Acceptable exterior paint colors
  • Installations of decks, patios and swimming pools
  • Mailbox design and décor
  • Fences, including height and material restrictions and allowable paint colors

In some cases, HOAs may micromanage the daily activities of their residents to an undesirable degree by creating rules regarding almost every possible situation:

  • Limits on the number and types of pets allowed
  • Intrusions on personal lifestyle choices and relationships
  • Suppression of personal or political expression
  • Banning of wind chimes
  • Positioning of satellite dishes

Property owners found to be in violation of the CC&Rs may be subject to fines, liens and other punitive actions on the part of the HOA. Depending on the nature of the problem, the HOA may also arrange to remediate certain issues at the expense of the homeowner.

Traditional Powers of the HOA

Most HOAs have the legal power to fine residents for failure to comply with the CC&Rs outlined in the contractual agreement. They can also assess fees for various shared expenses and services. Until 2011, HOAs in Texas also had the power to foreclose on properties without the involvement of a judge, speeding the process considerably and reducing the level of oversight for these legal actions. HOAs can also sue homeowners in court to collect fees and fines and to apply for injunctions against residents.

A Positive Step for HOA Residents

Regulations passed by Texas legislators in 2011 significantly reduced the powers available to HOAs in the state. Some of the most important changes to the previous law include the following:

  • Homeowners can decorate their homes with religious displays or flags within certain limits. Generally, religious displays are limited to 25 square inches or less when displayed on front doors. Flags may be displayed on poles 20 feet tall or less.
  • Barrels for harvesting rainwater must be allowed in HOA communities within certain limits.
  • Solar panels are also allowed under the new legislation.
  • HOAs may no longer use non-judicial foreclosure methods to seize properties delinquent on payments to the organization. They will now be required to go through a judge to pursue foreclosure proceedings.
  • Owners behind on their fees must be offered a payment plan by the HOA and an opportunity to catch up on these payments before foreclosure proceedings are initiated.
  • All Texas HOAs are required to hold open meetings, to keep records and to alert homeowners in the area regarding the date, time and place of those meetings. Failure to provide access to the records of the HOA will be considered grounds for a lawsuit on the part of residents and other members of the general public.

These changes are intended to even the playing field for homeowners in these communities. However, some issues still remain that could create real difficulties for Texas homeowners under the control of HOAs.

Financial Issues with HOAs

Unlike traditional contractual agreements, the CC&Rs associated with an HOA are attached to the parcel of land rather than to an individual homeowner. Membership in the HOA passes to the new homeowner along with the deed. If unspecified annual or monthly fees are required for membership in the HOA, the buyer may be stuck with steadily rising expenses that can significantly increase the overall cost of the new home. In some cases, the HOA fees can actually exceed the homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment. For this reason, it is essential to enlist the help of a Katy real estate law firm when purchasing a property with an HOA in place. These dedicated legal professionals can spot the warning signs that could spell financial trouble for those buying a home in an HOA-governed community.

Other Problems with HOAs Are Commonplace

Rising costs are not the only issue reported for homeowners dealing with inflexible HOA committees and unfair CC&Rs. Some of the most common issues include the following:

  • Inconsistent application of the rules outlined in the CC&Rs
  • Ineffective enforcement of CC&Rs for serious or dangerous nuisances
  • Failure to alert members of the HOA regarding special assessments and increases in fees
  • Overly intrusive interventions into normal activities
  • Failure on the part of the HOA to provide the agreed-upon services for residents
  • Financial issues that may lead to foreclosure or sale of common areas within the community

Depending on the terms outlined in the CC&Rs, homeowners may have little or no recourse when faced with these problems. Consulting with a Sugar Land real estate law specialist can provide the expertise needed to protect legal rights and ensure the most positive outcomes possible for homeowners in the modern HOA environment.

Recourse for HOA Residents

The 2011 legislation passed in Texas is designed to provide added transparency for residents of HOAs by mandating that all records pertaining to meetings of these organizations be made available to the public. This can offer valuable protection for residents in these communities by providing them with advance warning of planned increases in fees and enforcement actions on the part of their HOA. If evidence exists that the HOA is not living up to its side of the bargain by providing valuable services at a reasonable price, residents may also be able to pursue legal action against these organizations with the assistance of an established firm specializing in Houston real estate law.

If you are interested in purchasing a home in Texas or are already living in an HOA, working with a Sugar Land real estate law firm can provide the answers needed to protect your legal rights and ensure the greatest degree of comfort in your home. Companies that offer Houston and Katy real estate law services can advise you of your legal rights and can offer representation both in and out of court when negotiating with your HOA. By enlisting the help of The Law Office of Henry Jakob, you can ensure the best outcomes for your complaints and the greatest protection against unfair claims and assessments by your homeowners association.

25 Comments

  • Joe Ammons
    Posted April 4, 2018 11:56 pm

    How long can hoa/POA fail to enforce CCR’s before same become ineffective?

  • Carl Anthony Hernandez
    Posted April 9, 2018 10:27 pm

    Where would I find law or legislation regarding a HOA hiring common area lawn care and the lawn care company mus have certificate of insurance of no less than 1,000,000.00 limits and a W-9.

    Thank you

    Carl
    314-497-2136

  • Chris Pitts
    Posted April 10, 2018 2:03 am

    During closing, our contract didn’t have any HOA fees or agreements to be a member. Others in our community are split with some deeds specifying the HOA agreement, some like myself don’t. Are we legally required to pay back fees and join the HOA?

  • Elizabeth Stephenson
    Posted April 14, 2018 1:57 am

    Are membership (not Board) meetings allowed other than the annual meeting?

  • Courtney
    Posted April 27, 2018 12:57 pm

    How do I find out what the specific rules for my HOA are? Or is it general for all subdivisions in TX?

  • Hollie Wolfe Iii
    Posted May 1, 2018 1:32 am

    I work for a telecommunications company that is a 911 and emergency service provider. My HOA has adopted a no commercial vehicles in the neighborhood policy. Being that I am a public utility provider and considered one step below first responder, is there a recourse or bylaw that exempts public utilities from this? My vehicle fits in my drive way and like I said I maintain the outside plant that affects thousands of people. Any response is appreciated.

  • Monica Gibbs
    Posted May 14, 2018 9:33 pm

    monicagibbs@aol.com
    I am a homeowner the association we are under doesn’t follow the rules and regulations for our small fm road. There are businesses and renters which neither are allowed. There hasn’t been voted either for yearly council positions.
    I believe in fact that the association deed restrictions are dissolved because they are not up to date. I would like help finding out what my rights are as a homeowner.
    Thank you.

  • Christa Carter Champion
    Posted May 26, 2018 6:42 pm

    HELP!!! I am now and have been being hoodwinked for the last four years by this HOA. Please call 903 277 4274

  • Daniel Hall
    Posted July 30, 2018 11:38 pm

    I bought a home and acreage under the stipulation that there would be no HOA ( Property Owners Association). Four days after we signed on our new place, one of the local neighbors brought me over a “legal” contract showing the rules for the local neighborhood HOA. From what I can find I have no recourse due to being over 72 hours past signing for ownership. I am now stuck in a place that I can not do as I had planned.

  • Kim Peterson
    Posted November 12, 2018 11:14 pm

    I wonder if you can refer me to a TX reference. I bought a home that has restrictive covenants with the deed. I was told that the developer did not complete filing for mandatory HOA, and the previous/ original owner of 40 years was not involved with HOA ever. There is an HOA with voluntary dues (currently very low$) used for small common entrance upkeep. I am trying to find out if my property or I can potentially be at risk of being forced into membership of an HOA if the restrictive covenants do not state it and if i never sign/join/pay membership papers/fees. Any information or reference about this topic is appreciated. The Hoa makes a claim on their website that we are ALL members whether we choose to pay for active membership with voting rights. i do not have any conflict with them but prefer to not be a member. Thank you in advance for any response you may have.

  • javi
    Posted December 12, 2018 6:05 pm

    Well, actually it is question in receiving information on the following: If I was interested in owning a home under H.O.A; would ANY charge of conviction not allow me to live under the H.O.A?

  • nicole christine wittmer
    Posted January 2, 2019 5:19 pm

    I just moved into Rosharon TX , Sterling Lakes. They have a crazy HOA policy that violates the federal monopoly law. Also utilities with no authority to tax wish to impose a tax along with monthly water and sewage bill . I can use your assistance

  • William f Harlan
    Posted April 10, 2019 10:37 pm

    what can be done about a home owner that wants to change the HOA to a management company run park and just keeps bring law suit against the HOA that judges have rule against this home own. the home owner is past due on there HOA fees. of 5 plus years and refuses to pay the HOA fees they have just filed a new law suit is there any way to force this home owner out of the park they have made the commit to many other home owners that they will keep suing that park till they can no longer afford to fight this home owner in court and the can manage the park. it is a 55 and older park and the members have voted many time to keep the way it is as if these law suits continue the member will not be able to have there HOA fees go up to cover these cost. Also we as other home owner can’t sell as no mortgage company will not finance them for buyers. what course of action do we have as home owner in this park.

  • Angela Dabney
    Posted April 16, 2019 7:09 pm

    Can I bill my HOA for my weed care fees? The weeds blow in from the greenbelt beside my home and require constant treatment, otherwise I get threats and complaint letters. I owe fees of 455$ at the moment but am refusing to pay while this is happening. Do I have any kind of case?

  • James Stewart
    Posted April 17, 2019 3:41 am

    Do the Hoa still has to file by laws every 10 years?

  • Shaun haskins
    Posted May 9, 2019 3:11 am

    In regards to perimeter fences, who is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of them? The HOA or the homeowner, and where can I find this?

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  • Kate Barlow
    Posted June 9, 2019 1:11 am

    Do HOA laws pertaining to trees overrule state laws about trees?

    In particular, I’m referencing the state law about trees regarding responsibility for tree trimming. In this case I have a pecan tree which overhangs/encroaches the property of my neighbor. According to my arborist, the tree does not need to be trimmed for another year. The neighbors are asking me to have the tree trimmed. Can HOA rules require me to trim the tree overhanging my neighbor’s property even if I were to obtain multiple opinions from licensed arborists stating the tree is not impacting the neighbor’s property and it is their professional opinion that the tree does not need to be trimmed for another year? My arborist has stated that if the neighbors want the tree trimmed they may have it trimmed themselves and pay for it themselves. I want to be a good neighbor but if a tree doesn’t need to be trimmed I would prefer to wait until this winter to trim it.

  • Malisa Walker
    Posted July 12, 2019 5:45 pm

    I would like to set up a meeting with the law firm to discuss a notice I received from my HOA in La Marque, TX. Can you someone call me or email me at malisalwalker@gmail.com. The number online does not work.

  • Aaron Hook
    Posted July 18, 2019 4:45 pm

    Is a HOA responsible for its fences on its boundaries? My mother owns a home in Mansfeild Tx. A HOA built a housing development bordering her 2acr prop. The HOA used sub par cheep wood to put a fence along 3 sides of her property,both sides and the back . this gives her 12 new neighbors who she now shares a fence with and they rotten and a few are falling. So far we have been fixing the fences. Some have asked us to pay half but with 12 neighbors that is not doable. What are the rules about this. Again we are not part of the HOA. Thank you.

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