Many people who receive a fine from their HOA want to understand the rules. 

What are HOA rules?

HOA rules are put in place by owners to ensure consistency in appearance and use of homes in a community. HOAs and condo associations can put into effect almost any rules that do not impede constitution rights, state law, or city bylaws.  The good news is that collectively the owners are the ones who create the rules, so they can amend those rules by voting at a duly constituted meeting.  Rules are only in place to meet the needs of the community, so if they aren’t doing so they can be changed! 

Here is a funny take on HOA rules in an ad from GEICO. Whether you love or hate HOAs, enjoy the humor!

Here some of the most common questions: 

Can condo associations ban pets?

Yes, subject to the ban or restriction being reasonable under law. When there are bans, there are usually exceptions for service animals and emotional support animals…but as the latter has been taken advantage of, some states are making it a crime to misrepresent a pet as such! 

Can condo associations ban smoking?  

Yes, they can, both on common property and in some cases within private units. There is a reasonableness requirement on determining whether smoking is a nuisance to an ordinary person (not an especially sensitive individual), and there is also a question of whether it reduces the right to quiet enjoyment by owners of neighboring units. Quitting is difficult but will do more than reduce friction in your community; you will save money and reduce impact to your health. 

Can condo associations ban rentals? 

Yes, in fact most condos and HOAs place restrictions around rentals, often blanket rejecting short-term rentals (less than 7 days, 1 month, 6 months, etc). Others cap the number of units that may be rented at any given time regardless of duration. Some also have a period of 2 or 3 years where the owner must live in the unit before initiating any rental activity. Check your CC&Rs to learn more. 

Condo associations and liens? 

A condo association can place a lien in accordance with its rules anytime an owner owes the condo association money. For example, a lien can be registered if an owner fails to pay their condo fees, any penalty notice fines, or a special assessment. Once liens exceed a certain amount a condo association can initiate a claims process that could lead to foreclosure. It is sometimes possible to arrange a payment plan, but take it seriously and speak to a legal advisor if you can’t pay. 

Can condo associations prohibit satellite dishes? 

While conditions, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) can attempt to restrict satellite dishesthe Telecommunications Act does allow installation of dishes less than 1m (larger in Alaska) where it can receive reasonable receptionCondo associations can still prohibit almost anything that adorns the outside of your home. For example air conditioners can also be prohibited, or with requirements for them to be concealed.  

These are a handful of less common questions:

Can condo associations borrow money? 

Yes, in most cases the condo association is able to borrow money. Of course when they do, it is the owners that repay that debt plus interest through their future fees. While some owners may prefer this to a special assessment, some owners may prefer not to pay interest.  

Condo associations and emotional support animals

Claims for emotional support animals have exploded over the past decade, and unfortunately not all of them are genuine. In fact, within condos and on airplanes, the issue is leading some states to start cracking down. More than two dozen states have enacted new laws to tackle fraud, and more are sure to follow. The bottom line is that some people have genuine needs and those frivolously making claims are making it more difficult. If your dog, cat, snake, duck or cricket is not truly needed to support your mental wellbeing, think twice about condo living or consider finding them a new home. 

Condo associations and termites? 

Unfortunately, pests can become a factor in almost any condo. Termites are more of a concern in some climates than others. Buildings that have wood construction are obviously more prone to termite infestation. Other places struggle with mice or pigeons. A condo association is typically responsible for treatment in common areas (including a condo’s exterior) while owners are responsible within their units. See Are Condo Associations Responsible for Pest Control for more.

Condo associations and disabilities? 

Accessibility is an important issue for every family impacted by disabilityWhether there is a visual impairment, mental health issues, or a physical handicap requiring mobility aids, condo associations must ensure they do not discriminate against people with disabilities. These protections are assured in the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988Certain concessions can be made by the condo association to accommodate. Examples include allowing alternate flooring, improved access, or perhaps making an exception to pet restrictions to allow for an emotional support animal (service animals are almost universally allowed). 

Similar questions:

Condo associations and rentals? 

Rentals are a sensitive subject and most buildings have some restrictions. Some do not allow any rentals of any kind. Many condo associations permit rentals of more than 6 months or one year, sometime with a requirement that the owner live in the unit for at least 2 or 3 years first. Increasingly, short term rentals like Airbnb are being restricted for reasons set out above. 

Condo associations and Airbnb? 

Well, sometimes! As shortterm rentals explode there are impacts on communities. Some visitors are not respectful of residents and are noisy. There is the security and social fabric aspect, with strangers having access to common areas or coming and going all day and night. They cause increased wear and tear as they drag luggage around, most without the same degree of care as an owner. And units offered as shortterm rentals are placing pressure on housing supply. All of this contributes to restrictions being placed on Airbnb and shortterm rentals, both by cities and by condo associations.  

Condo associations and dogs? 

Pets are often allowed but with certain restrictions. These vary from one condo to the next, but typically you will be limited to 1 or 2 dogs and/or cats. Certain breeds or sizes may be excluded. Almost all condo associations ban exotic animals and animal breeding activities. Check your conditions, covenants & restrictions (CC&Rs) for more information. 

Can condo associations take out loans?

Yes, in most cases the condo association is able to take out a loan. Of course when they do, it’s on the owners to repay that debt plus interest through their future fees. While some owners may prefer this to a special assessment, some owners may prefer not to pay interest.


That’s a lot of Q&A, but hopefully it satisfies your curiosity. Want to learn more about your HOAs CC&Rs and rulesSign up and run a free Eli Report!