As part of a homeowners’ association (HOA), you’ve probably heard the phrase “CC&Rs” tossed around quite a bit. For a lot of us, the term is just a cluster of letters with no concrete meaning. But the truth is that CC&Rs can have a real impact on how you live.

"It is essential that all homeowners fully understand their rights and responsibilities provided under their association's Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs)," said Steven Hirsch, senior vice president of property management for FirstService Residential in New York. "The CC&Rs are the association's ‘Bill of Rights’ and serves as a roadmap to help guide homeowners on the ‘dos and don'ts’ within their community. Compliance or non-compliance with an association's CC&Rs can determine the harmony or discord of association living."

So let’s take a look at CC&Rs – what they mean, why they matter, and how they affect you.
1. The basics.
Let’s start simply: CC&Rs stands for “Covenants, Codes and Restrictions.” They count as a legally binding contract between residents and the association. That’s right – as someone who enjoys the benefits of association living, you are contractually bound to abide by its rules. Breaking this important agreement can result in some serious consequences.

2. The reason.
CC&Rs are developed to protect property values and to keep your neighborhood safe and looking beautiful. Typically, they’re developed to ensure a certain standard of life – in a way that is clear and fair – so all owners and residents are provided with the same rights and privileges, and also held equally accountable. Rather than perceiving these governances as a burden, understand that the philosophy behind your CC&Rs is to create an environment where quality of life is upheld every day, and everyone has the freedom to live happily.

3. The benefits.
By living in a community with CC&Rs, you have the confidence of knowing that you can rely on your neighborhood to maintain decorum, stay pleasant and visually appealing. Thanks to CC&Rs, you never have to worry about your neighbor painting their house in repelling colors, or the person living across from you keeping an unsightly boat parked in their driveway year-round. And, some buildings have adopted restrictions that protect homeowners from having their views obstructed. Of course, there are many other benefits of living in a homeowners’ association – association fees collected from owners go toward paying for many of the community amenities you enjoy, such as parks, community centers, pools and more. The money is placed in reserve accounts that accommodate the cost of major upgrades or repairs to the community that may arise from time to time.

4. The dynamics.
So how are CC&Rs created? Well, they’re often crafted by the developer and later amended by your board. Your HOA board has the ability to update them according to shifting community trends and needs. These new rules take shape as bylaws. However, this is not a dictatorship – remember, your board is duly elected by homeowners, so their actions, by definition, should reflect the wants and needs of association members. If your community has partnered with a property management company, then you can look to that firm as the party who enforces the rules. That means they’ll collect dues and issue warnings or fines when those rules are broken. Effective management teams can also help educate homeowners by delivering clear and consistent communication that help to minimize misunderstandings and explain the value of the association’s bylaws.
5. Your role.
Remember, your CC&Rs are there to make life better for you. So take a moment to get to know them. It is important that you take the initiative to be thoroughly and properly informed about your home and your surrounding community. It goes without saying that being well versed in your CC&Rs will also help you avoid any conduct that may be perceived as unseemly. Additionally, it’s about more than knowing a few rules; it’s also about knowing what your rights are as part of your community. By law, you should have received a copy of your CC&Rs when you purchased your property – after all, they are a legally binding contract between you and the association. If you don’t have a copy, then you should reach out to your board for one as soon as possible. If your association works with a property management company, then they can help, too.

Remember, your CC&Rs are there to create a community that is a fair, peaceful and rewarding place to live in – for everyone. For more information on the benefits of association living, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company.
Wednesday July 13, 2016