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Trouble with your HOA? Here are your options as a homeowner

Posted at 8:08 AM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 16:25:34-05

NORFOLK, Va. - There are many neighborhoods across Hampton Roads that come with a homeowners association, but what rights do you have when you don't think the HOA is holding up its end of the deal?

Carrie Joyner, Barbara Bartley and Joyce Smith are looking for those answers.

The three women spend a lot of time walking through their Norfolk neighborhood, documenting trash and overlooked landscaping. They said the community isn't what it used to be when they moved in 30 and 40 years ago.

"You gotta be careful walking out here," said Carrie Joyner. "We need some help out here. The neighborhood has gone completely down."

Like a lot of neighborhoods, the community is governed by a homeowners association, but the women said the board has overlooked their responsibilities, allowing trash to build up and homes to fall by the wayside.

"Nothing gets done. We don't have any say-so," said Barbara Bartley. "They said we can ask the question, but they didn't have to answer."

So what are the rights of homeowners, and what are the rights of an HOA's board?

Richard Schragger, a Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law said, "when they purchase a home, and in a homeowners association, they're also signing on to a whole raft of rules that the homeowners association has adopted in their signing on to a governance structure."

He said it can pose some difficulties when people don't read the initial rules, which are contained in the HOAS CC&Rs: Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions.

CC&Rs regulate what happens in the community. The color you paint your house, for example, and who the board hires with your assessment money for grounds maintenance.

However, if a resident and the HOA board don't see eye-to-eye, Schragger said, "Again, what courts say is that the solution to that is either to move out, or to elect a different board that is more sympathetic to your issues. But it does turn out that because a lot of homes are only available in homeowners associations that it's hard to say that home buyers have a real choice."

If this happens, you may feel stuck like Barbara, Carrie and Joyce. They said they have reached out to the board to address their concerns, but nothing changes.

"They're responsible for what's out here. And they don't do anything," said Barbara.

Schragger said in the court's eyes, unless the board is clearly violating the rules, HOA's seem to have more power than homeowners.

His advice, "I would say go in with your eyes very wide open."

He said if you're already part of a neighborhood with an HOA and you feel like your board is violating the bylaws and CC&R, document everything because that's the best way to prove it in court.

News 3 also reached out to the HOA board of Carrie, Barbara and Joyce's neighborhood numerous times for their response and they never got back to us or answered our questions.

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