Don’t buy a condo if you don’t want to follow the rules

Most condo owners don’t give their covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) much thought—until they do something the CC&Rs forbid.

CC&Rs are the governing documents that spell out how a homeowners association (HOA) operates and the rules members of the HOA must obey. Since HOAs make and enforce the condo community rules, it’s important to understand what you can and can’t do to your property.

While the CC&Rs are meant to serve the condo owner and the community, sometimes they impose intrusive or elitist rules. Example: There was a news report out of Texas two years ago in which a homeowner in an upscale community was threatened with fines for parking his new Ford F-150 pickup truck in his driveway. The HOA said the mid-range truck was “not classy enough.”

I know of one case in San Francisco where an owner added a window in an outside facing wall to capture a panoramic view of the bay. The HOA hit him with a heavy fine, as altering the outside of the building without permission wasn’t allowed.

So don’t buy a condo unless you can live with and follow the rules. Make sure to read through them completely before you purchase and keep them handy after the sale for reference.

Here are examples of restrictions sometimes found in CC&Rs:

* Owner must cover hardwood floors with carpeting to control noise

* Owner can’t operate a business from their unit

* No storing of anything in the owner’s parking space

* No noise after 10 p.m.

* Moving in or out is only allowed during certain hours

* No garage or yard sales

* No signs in windows

* Restrictions on the types of window coverings allowed in units

* Restrictions on the paint colors allowed on exterior of units

* Restrictions on the size and number of pets

* No renting of the unit to others

If you have questions, it’s best to check your CC&Rs or ask the president of your HOA for guidance.

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