What are CCRs?
This acronym stands for covenants, conditions, and restrictions.
They are a key part of real estate development and property ownership.
If you’re curious about how they help to maintain the aesthetic and value of a community as well as impact homeowners and their property, keep reading.
We’ll explain what CCRs are, what they are not, and what you should look out for if you’re interested in owning a home.
1. What are CCRs?
CCRs (also known as CC&Rs) are a set of rules and guidelines that regulate the use, maintenance, and appearance of properties in a particular community.
Often, these communities are a neighborhood or homeowner’s association (HOA).
CCRs are legally binding documents that are recorded with a local land record.
This makes them enforceable by an HOA or another designated governing body.
2. What do CCRs typically include?
As noted above, CCRs are a description of what a homeowner can or cannot do on their property in a specific area where it resides.
Here’s what covenants, conditions, and restrictions often include:
Some CCRs may require you to mow your lawn or maintain your landscaping regularly.
Other property maintenance can include painting your exterior or replacing stones or bricks that have fallen from the house.
While some homeowner’s associations provide services like exterior painting and home maintenance, others require homeowners to take on these tasks themselves.
CCRs aren’t likely to limit or restrict your interior home decorations, but they could weigh in on anything exterior.
For instance, your HOA could dictate the type of holiday decorations you put up around Christmas.
They may want all the homes in the area to align, or they may restrict which types of decorations are appropriate (for instance, no blow-ups).
Some CCRs will outline which pets are permitted in specific areas or neighborhoods.
If you’ve been interested in getting livestock or certain dog breeds, it’s good to clear this with your homeowner’s association or other governing body.
For example, some HOAs will not allow homeowners to have chickens in their backyard, or they may limit the number of dogs that are allowed.
Additionally, HOAs often outline leash laws and waste disposal for pets.
Not all subdivisions, neighborhoods, or areas permit vehicle parking in certain areas or even allow guest parking overnight.
If you’re a homeowner with many vehicles or cars, this is something you’ll want to consider when agreeing to CCRs.
Garbage or unsightly items
CCRs may regulate trash containers, clotheslines, utility meters, or other “unsightly” items on the exterior of a home.
These regulations may require that homeowners conceal these items from view.
CCRs can include land use restrictions.
If you’re a homeowner hoping to use your property for a home-based business or as a short-term rental, then you’ll want to double-check the CCRs that your governing body has outlined.
Certain neighborhoods or areas may have architectural standards that they want structures to abide by.
These guidelines may extend to the design, materials, and colors for structures, fences, landscaping, and other exterior modifications.
Common area usage
If you live in a subdivision that has shared amenities like parks, pools, parking lots, or recreational facilities, then the CCRs will often outline the rules for using and maintaining these amenities.
Noise and nuisance regulations
Everyone likes to live in a quiet community.
As a result, CCRs often tackle noise and nuisance policies.
This can relate to noise levels, parking, and any other potential disturbances that may interfere with a homeowner’s ability to have peace and tranquility in and around their home.
HOAs may also have other requirements in addition to the ones listed above.
These may include regulations regarding the height of the fence, political signs, or defensible space for fire protection.
Homeowners should always check CCRs when they are planning a big project or home addition (such as building an addition to their home or adding a swimming pool).
3. How are CCRs enforced?
Prior to purchasing and relocating to a property in the community, homeowners are typically required to acknowledge the CCRs.
By relocating to that community, you are agreeing to abide by the CCRs in place.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the community will abide by the CCRs, and thus, the governing body (typically the HOA) must use enforcement mechanisms.
Here are the steps that HOAs often use:
Revocation of privileges
Remember that CCRs are essentially a contract between two parties: homeowners and HOAs.
Like any other contract, when a breach occurs, the other party has the right to file a lawsuit against the other.
However, it is unlikely that an HOA will jump to legal action or a first offense.
First-time offenders are more likely looking at either a warning, fine, mediation, or forced compliance.
4. What happens if an association fails to enforce the CCRs?
An association must enforce the restrictions set out in the CCRs.
If they do not, then homeowners can sue for damages and an injunction to compel the association.
That said, just because the association must enforce the restrictions does not mean they must litigate every violation.
They hold some discretion when deciding whether or not to enforce the CCRs in certain instances.
Over time, if an association continually fails or refused to enforce restrictions, then they may lose their ability to enforce the CCRs.
This is because of the following:
Statute of limitations – There are statutes of limitations for violations.
Typically, this limitation may be 5 years from the time the association discovered or should have discovered the violation. (Check with your association and state!)
Laches – This is a defense that is used against individuals who are unjustifiably slow to exercise a right or claim.
Waiver – A waiver may occur when all (or most) landowners have acquiesced in a violation, so it indicates an abandonment.
5. What is an example of a penalty for violation?
If you’re considering living in a subdivision with an HOA, you may want to know what could happen if you violate one of the CCRs.
Here’s one such scenario.
You live in a subdivision that has an HOA.
This HOA has CCRs that include properly maintaining your lawn.
It requires that all homeowners cut their grass, trim their bushes, and weed their flower beds.
Homeowners are permitted to either perform this work themselves or hire someone else to do it on their behalf.
Either way, they are responsible for getting it done.
Everything should appear neat and tidy from the sidewalk.
As the homeowner, you normally perform this task yourself.
However, you go out of town one summer for 3 weeks.
You forget that this will need to be done in your absence, and your lawn grows unruly in your absence.
Your HOA could do any of the following:
Send you letters requesting that you immediately maintain your lawn as you’re violating the CCRs
Fine you because you’re violating the CCRs
Force compliance by going onto your property, performing the maintenance themselves, and sending you a bill
6. Why are CCRs established?
The primary goal of CCRs is to establish a framework for maintaining order, consistency, and property values in a community.
When all residences adhere to a set of guidelines, everyone is able to have a desirable living environment.
Having regulations all homeowners follow also prevents the misuse or abuse of properties.
CCRs also delineate the rights and responsibilities of homeowners and the governing body, so everyone knows what their role is.
7. How do HOA dues and assessments work?
If you choose to live in a neighborhood or subdivision that has an HOA, you’ll need to pay quarterly, monthly, or annual dues.
There may be some additional special assessments required as well.
Make sure you read through the CCRs thoroughly when you’re considering purchasing a house.
These covenants, conditions, and restrictions will describe what the community requires, how the fees and assessments work, and the penalties that will be imposed for nonpayment or compliance.
8. What happens if you don’t pay HOA dues?
Some homeowners think HOA dues are absurd.
If you fall into that camp, you may think, “Well, what happens if I just don’t pay?”
Let us be the first to say that it’s probably not the best idea.
HOAs may be able to get a lien on your home if you fall behind in dues (also called “assessments”).
Some states allow this while others (like Colorado) strictly prohibit it.
They’ll have an assessment lien attached to your property.
This is a lien that is automatically attached to your property as of the date that the fee was due.
The HOA may also record the lien with the county recorder (although this isn’t required).
This will provide public notice that the lien exists.
Beware that having an HOA lien can lead your property into foreclosure.
Your rights from there will depend on the state where you reside.
9. Who determines the rules?
CCRs are typically determined by the developer of the community as they attempt to anticipate the type of community or commercial property space they are creating.
However, since these needs can change when residents move in, CCRs can change.
To change them, you’ll need to see two steps done:
First, the governing board of the HOA (or a similar body) will need to take a vote with community member reviews.
Second, paperwork will need to be refiled with your state by working with an experienced attorney.
As a result, you probably won’t see CCRs changed often, but it can be done.
10. Are CCRs legally binding?
Yes, it may feel silly that your HOA (or other governing body) can fine you, but this is because CCRs are legally binding documents.
If you fail to pay dues or fines, there will be a penalty for this.
Don’t ignore it either!
An HOA can take it a step further and have you sued in court if the situation escalates.
11. Are CCRs zoning laws?
On your quest to find the answer to the question, “What are CCRs,” you may wonder if they have any connection to or impact on zoning laws.
Zoning laws are ordinances that are imposed and enforced by the government.
CCRs differ because they are a private contract between private parties.
As a homeowner, you’re entering into CCRs voluntarily because you want to live in a certain area.
Thus, you may find them more restricting than zoning laws on what you hope to do with your land.
12. When are CCRs unlawful?
Although CCRs are a private contract, some provisions will never be legal or enforceable.
For instance, anything involving race is an unlawful restriction.
Prior to the federal implementation of the Fair Housing Act, CCRs would sometimes prohibit the sale of property to homeowners who weren’t Caucasian.
These were racist documents, and they are still in the public record today.
Due to the state and federal laws now in place, they are invalid.
Still, that doesn’t mean that certain HOAs haven’t disregarded the rules since (even subtly).
If you believe that you or a neighbor is being subjected to an unlawful CCR, don’t hesitate to report it.
13. How can you protect yourself against CCRs?
The best way to protect yourself against unlawful CCRs is to read them before purchasing a new home or plot of land in an area with an HOA or governing body.
You won’t know what’s included in these covenants, conditions, or restrictions unless you go through them.
After reading them, make sure you request a copy before you sign your purchase agreement.
This will ensure you’re able to refer back to it when needed.
CCRs provide rules and guidelines for a community to maintain its integrity and value.
The goal is to protect property values and promote a desirable and beautiful living environment.
When homeowners understand and abide by CCRs, they help foster a vibrant and well-maintained community since these regulations benefit all residents.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.