When it comes to preserving the quality of life and property values in HOA communities in Tennessee, the enforcement of rules is necessary. Learn about the different Tennessee HOA rules below.
Everything You Need to Know About Tennessee HOA Rules
Homeowners associations are becoming more prevalent in Tennessee, as they are in many other states. While no two associations are made equal, one thing that all HOAs have in common is the existence of rules. Every HOA community has its own set of rules that dictate how homeowners must behave, what they can do, and what they can’t do.
Whether you are a member of your HOA board or simply a member of an HOA community, it is paramount to know what HOA rules are, how they are enforced, and what counts as an unenforceable rule.
What Are HOA Rules?
Every homeowners association has a set of operating rules and regulations covering a wide range of topics. Members of an HOA, including board members, are required to follow these rules. For most associations, you automatically become a member once you buy a home that is a part of the community. For some rare associations, though, membership is optional and voluntary.
The Importance of Tennessee HOA Rules
To someone from the outside, it is easy to misconstrue HOA rules as too restrictive. After all, some of these rules can sound too limiting.
One example of a common rule has to do with the color of houses. Many HOAs prohibit homeowners from painting their house a particular color or require them to stick to a certain palette only. This rule can appear too controlling to people who would like to paint their own property any color they see fit.
However, the purpose of that rule is to maintain the overall aesthetics of the community. A single house in bright pink would definitely stand out too much in a neighborhood full of browns and beiges. This would not only affect the appeal of that single house but may also bring down the appeal of the neighborhood as a whole. When you see it this way, it makes sense for such a rule to exist.
To put it simply, homeowners association rules primarily exist because they help keep order in the community. These rules are designed to protect the quality of life within the association, as well as the neighborhood’s curb appeal and property values.
What Are Some Typical HOA Rules?
Although no two communities will have completely identical rules, some rules are more common than others. Some typical HOA rules include:
- Architectural controls
- Parking or vehicle rules
- Pet restrictions
- Noise rules
- Home maintenance standards (including landscaping rules)
- Occupancy limits
- Rental restrictions (for both short- and long-term rentals)
- Holiday decoration rules
- Drone policies
Keep in mind that rules can vary from community to community. Thus, it is important to check your own association’s governing documents to understand your community’s rules.
The Burden of Responsibility: Creating and Enforcing Rules
If you are new to HOA living, you might wonder where these rules come from in the first place. Who gets to decide which rules are worth enacting? And who makes sure these rules are enforced?
The simple answer to both questions is the HOA board.
While some communities already have pre-existing rules while still under the developer’s control, it is generally the duty of the HOA board to create, amend, and enforce HOA rules. Rules are not permanent, which means they can change over time depending on the circumstances.
The HOA board normally does not require a vote from the membership to enact a rule. However, if it will modify the governing documents such as the bylaws or CC&Rs, it will usually need majority approval from the association’s members.
These procedures and requirements don’t apply universally to all homeowners associations in Tennessee, though. While the Tennessee Condominium Act of 2008 governs condo associations created after January 1, 2009, no such act that specifically governs single-family communities exists. You will need to refer to your governing documents for more information on your association’s procedures and requirements.
The Consequences of Breaking Tennessee HOA Rules
All homeowners must follow the rules and regulations of their community association. Failing to do so can result in one of several possible consequences, such as receiving a warning letter or having one’s privileges suspended. Perhaps one of the most widely used penalties, though, is imposing a monetary fine against those who violate the rules.
The dollar amount of the fine varies from association to association and even from violation to violation. A small violation may incur only a $50 fine, whereas a violation that jeopardizes the safety and welfare of the community’s residents may result in a fine of as much as a few hundred dollars.
In Tennessee, there are no laws limiting how much an HOA can fine an offending homeowner. For condo associations created after January 1, 2009, though, the law dictates that the fine must be reasonable.
What happens if a member fails to settle their fine?
Tennessee law gives condo associations the ability to place a lien on an owner’s unit when assessments or fines become due. The COA can then perfect the lien by recording it with the county recorder’s office. From there, the COA can choose to foreclose on the lien either through judicial or non-judicial means.
Homeowners associations generally possess the authority to attach a lien and foreclose on homes, too. But, you will need to make sure your HOA has that right by referring to your governing documents. Currently, Tennessee does not have state statutes governing HOAs specifically.
About Unenforceable HOA Rules
Just because an HOA board enacts a rule does not automatically make it enforceable. Some rules may be deemed unenforceable if they:
- Were not enacted according to the procedures laid out in the association’s governing documents;
- Are not being enforced consistently or fairly; and/or,
- Go against federal, state, or local laws.
When a rule conflicts with federal, state, or local laws, it is generally unenforceable. An example of such an unenforceable rule has to do with political signs. According to the Tennessee Freedom of Speech Act, HOAs can’t prohibit homeowners from displaying political signs on their own private property. They can, however, restrict the size and placement of the signs.
Rules for a Better Community
HOA rules exist for a reason. They help maintain order in the community and contribute to the preservation of property values. As such, members of an HOA must understand their own rules and adhere to them as best they can. For board members, it is imperative to enact Tennessee HOA rules that will benefit the community as a whole.
Navigating the ins and outs of Tennessee laws, community management, and HOA rules can be difficult. This is why many associations seek the help of an HOA management company like Cedar Management Group. Give us a call at (877) 252-3327) or contact us online to learn more about our services.
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