In this article I will outline both landlord/tenant and homeowner/association relationship. Lack of knowledge about the relationship can lead to problems. In order to avoid this you must read and understand the rental agreement, covenants, by-laws, and/or state laws governing the relationship. Make sure any additional terms discussed make their way into the written agreement before signing it, and always keep a copy for your records. If you are unsure about any terms governing the relationship, it is best to seek the advice of a licensed attorney in order to understand the restrictions and rights that you will have upon entering into said relationship.
The relationship between landlords and tenants is one of mutual responsibility. This relationship is controlled by the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act that serves as a blueprint, along with the agreement executed by the parties. The landlord can be the owner of the property or a property manager hired by the owner, either way, the terms of the agreement and the state laws apply to anyone enforcing the terms of a landlord tenant relationship.
Landlords may add terms to leases and rental agreements that are not included in the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act provided they are not forbidden by law. There are no limits on the amount of a security deposits, but deposit must be returned to the tenant within 30 days of the termination of tenancy (make sure to leave a forwarding address). Landlords have the right to enter the home of a tenant only if the landlord gives the tenant 24 hours notice, there is an emergency, the tenant has abandoned the property, or the landlord is making needed repairs and informed the tenant of these before entering her apartment. The landlord must keep the property in compliance with all building codes affecting health and safety. The landlord must also make any repairs necessary to keep the property habitable. Furthermore, all common areas must be kept reasonably safe and clean.
Tenants are responsible for keeping their units clean. They must not cause any damage to the unit, other than normal wear and tear. They must abide by the laws, meaning not use the property for illegal purposes or be disruptive to the neighbors.
If the rental agreement does not explicitly address the terms of tenancy, the rental agreement runs month to month. Otherwise, the rental agreements can state whatever terms and conditions the landlord and tenant agree to as long as they are not prohibited by law.
If you are having an issue with your landlord you should first review the terms of your rental agreement, to see if your issue is covered. A discussion, followed by a letter detailing your complaints, is a good way to start trying to negotiate and resolve your issues.
If you are a homeowner you typically belong to the homeowners’ association (HOA) for that development. Membership is automatic with the purchase of a home in the development. As a homeowner and a member of an HOA, you have certain rights and responsibilities. An HOA is necessary to keep property values and the quality of life in your condo building or subdivision as high as possible. Most HOAs are organized like corporations and have a bylaws, board of directors (elected by the members), meetings, minutes, strict record-keeping and annual budgets.
Homeowners have the right to elect a board of directors to lead the HOA. Board members serve for the length of time indicated in the HOA’s bylaws and can usually be removed by the homeowners in certain circumstances.
A homeowner has the right to: use common property, such as a common clubhouse and recreational facilities; access any disciplinary process set up by the HOA; enforce any covenants or agreements that affect your property directly; challenge any rule changes made by the HOA.
As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to comply with the provisions of the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs), which is a document that you signed when you purchased the property. The CC&Rs set out restrictions on what you can do with your property, such as what colors you can paint your house and how high your fence can be.
If you want to do something you’re not sure is acceptable under the CC&Rs, or you want to stop your neighbor from doing something you’ll want to start by reading the CC&Rs in detail.
If the association board is not following the rules, you should talk to an individual board member or property manager on the property and then follow the conversation up with a letter detailing the exact issue. Maybe the board members don’t know that they are doing something wrong.
To do something outside of the rules, you will probably have to ask the board for a “variance” and go through a formal hearing process. Getting other homeowners to support your position can be very helpful in doing this.
If all else fails, you’ve always got the option of trying to vote in new board members at the next HOA election. If you’ve exhausted all your other options, look for a lawyer who has experience dealing with homeowners’ associations, and who encourages you to keep negotiating rather than jump right into court.
Disclaimer: This article was written for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for, nor does it constitute, legal advice. Only an attorney who knows the specific details of your particular situation can provide legal advice. The goal here is to give you a basic roadmap to the legal issues you may confront and should be aware of.