Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions 101 - What They Are and Why They Matter
Do your residents understand your CC&R's?
Your CC&Rs are a big part of what makes living in your community so rewarding. With this in mind, its important residents see them as a benefit rather than a burden. But how do you keep residents in the loop about regulations in a way that not only helps them to be compliant but also helps with community engagement and resident satisfaction?
You can start by taking the time to help owners get familiar with the rules and understand how they affect their community.
Wait, so what exactly are CC&Rs?Let’s break it down: The rules of an HOA or COA community are described in what is known as the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions – popularly referred to as CC&Rs. Texas law uses the term “restrictive covenants.” Typically, CC&Rs are initially drafted by your developer and are a very important part of your board’s governing documents, which fully detail the operations of your association.
What is a covenant restriction and how does it apply to our association?Easy. The CC&Rs are the rules that govern life in a property owners' or condo owners’ association. Simply put – they regulate the use, maintenance and appearance of residents’ property. Things like the collection policy, investment policy and architectural guidelines are all common examples of situations you may find outlined in your CC&Rs, and residents who violate the CC&Rs could often face penalties, like fines and various other consequences.
However, violating association rules is not the same as violating state law. Texas law does contain a few limits on what an association can prohibit. For instance, Chapter 202 of the Texas Property Code states that property owners' associations can regulate but cannot prohibit the following:
- Display of religious items
- Standby electric generators
- Swimming pool enclosures
- Solar panels and solar energy devices
- Wind- or hail-resistant shingles, or shingles that are heating and cooling efficient
- Display of the American flag, the Texas flag, or the flag of the United States Armed Forces
- Rain barrels, composting systems, efficient irrigation systems, and drought-resistant landscaping
- Possession of firearms or ammunition
- Lemonade stands
Why do covenant restrictions matter for our association?The goal of the CC&Rs is to enforce the things that keep residents safe while preserving and enhancing property values in the community. Separate from your association’s Bylaws and Rules & Regulations, CC&Rs articulate the legally binding fine points of your particular association. This allows your board to set the tone for your community by establishing what can and cannot be done to improve and protect the neighborhood’s quality of life. Your board also has the power to adopt resolutions and policies that support the CC&Rs to better serve the community as it evolves over time.
How do we communicate the importance of covenant restrictions in our community?Residents want a clean and welcoming community, right? They should be made aware that by staying in compliance with their CC&Rs, they are maintaining and improving the resale value of their homes/units. So, remind them that in order to maintain the quality lifestyle they desire for themselves and their neighbors, it’s important to follow the rules set forth by the board and understand why they are consistently being enforced.
That said, as a board member, your residents are looking to you for leadership and guidance. It’s equally important for board members to fully communicate and better educate owners so that people can follow the rules more easily.
Many Texas associations partner with a community management company, such as FirstService Residential, whose job is to act as the enforcer of these rules. A great community management company can help educate homeowners on the details of the association’s governing documents.
What are some best practices for sending this communication to our residents?Again, educating residents is key to getting them to comply and follow the rules. When it comes to communicating the CC&Rs with residents, the board should always:
- Clearly state the reason for setting the policy
- Explain what the rules entail
- Explain how they will be enforced
- Detail next steps if violation is not remedied
- Enforce them consistently
Communicate to all residents via multiple channels like email, message boards in common areas, the community’s newsletter, social media and even mail. Though people don’t usually think of rules as exciting news, make sure your association is being proactive and establish regular communication about restrictions.
Consider providing access in a way that allows them to find this information quickly. For starters, a management partner can work with the board to set up monthly communication behind the importance of policy and develop a FAQ page on your website that covers common questions residents may present regarding their CC&Rs. If your property management company has a customer care center or a resident portal like FirstService Residential’s CONNECT™, these can be optimal ways to ensure residents have information on demand.
Watch the video below for quick tips regarding your association's CC&R's here:
How can we improve compliance in our community or building?While individual situations in communities may vary, we recommend to just keep it simple.
1. Fully explain the process
Being transparent and setting expectations upfront will save you a lot of grief down the road. Any process runs smoother when everyone is on the same page from the beginning.
2. Be consistent
Realize that residents do talk to each other and will compare notes, so make sure that your messaging is consistent across the board.
3. Follow up and close the loop
A good management company should have good insights into current and outstanding violations. If your board notices an ongoing trend, it’s best to meet with your management company to strategize for solutions to educate residents and improve compliance in the future.
Your CC&Rs are the foundation of a beautiful, peaceful community for both you and your neighbors. And whether you live in a planned community or condominium, members need to understand and follow the rules set forth by your board. By providing clear communications and being a source of continual education, residents will better understand the value behind covenant enforcement over time.
As a full-service property management company specializing in association management, FirstService Residential Texas is equipped to administer effective covenant enforcement. To review the information contained within your CC&Rs or any of your association’s governing documents, contact us at an office location near you.