Q. What are CC&Rs, or the “Declaration”?
A. The “Declaration of Easements, Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions of East Mountain, A Planned Unit Development (Expandable), Provo, Utah County, Utah” (CC&Rs) is the governing document agreed-to by all property owners within the Home Owners Association (HOA) when the title was transferred to that property owner, or their agent (mortgage holder, etc.), and to which the owner agreed by so-signing. In other words, the rules that govern the HOA’s developer, Board, and members. The entirety of the document can be found in the documents from the “closing” on the property, or on the HOA website as a PDF file. Created by the original developer of the neighborhood in 1994, the CC&Rs are tied to the properties (“lots”), and transfer with those properties as they change hands from owner to owner.
Q. I have never read, and probably never even seen these CC&Rs even though I own the property within the HOA, so I do not think they apply. Am I right?
A. No, if your property is within the HOA, or ever was, then it is bound by the HOA’s CC&Rs which are tied to the lots. If your Title company did not inform you of the HOA and CC&Rs and have you sign them, then you should talk to them about that. See section 10.01 (“Membership”) of the CC&Rs which define membership in the HOA per lot. See also section 13.09 (“Covenants to Run with Land”) for more on the tie between HOA and the lot.
Q. I bought the property within the HOA, but now I am being told what to do with it in some way. Why are you telling me what to do?
A. When a lot in the HOA is purchased, part of the job of the Title company is to ensure that all of the legal documentation, including any applicable HOA documents, are signed, fees paid, etc. One of those documents was the HOA’s CC&Rs, which bind the property to the covenants of the HOA.
Q. When is the RV parking, cable TV, set of walking trails, exercise stations, or other amenity coming?
A. There has been a rumor going around about RV parking, cable TV, and some less-oft cited amenities for years. Unfortunately, while the original developer who setup the HOA may have said those were would be provided, the HOA itself was never setup to provide those, and there is not currently land for things requiring more land, like an RV parking area. If money to acquire land can be raised, and if the land can be re-zoned appropriately, and if the HOA membership would like it, then amenities can be investigated, though unless the developer wants to come back and donate the land, this is not very likely.
Q. Why does the Board pick on me but not on the person down the road who clearly violates the same or other rules? Why did I get a letter when other people’s yards look worse than mine?
A. Chances are that the HOA Board, or its contracted management company, is also talking to them, sending them letters, imposing fines, and otherwise doing as the CC&Rs require for non-compliance. As a rule, the Board will not share details about others with you, or you with them, though you are welcome to talk to your neighbor directly about potential violations, or to e-mail the Board about the same. Inspections are performed during summer months by our contracted management company so the board members do not inspect the whole neighborhood. We occasionally receive complaints about egregious problems and do act on those. These letters are not meant to be attacks or punishments, but are to encourage everyone to take the best care of their yards and to increase the value of all of our properties.
Q. I want to reserve the gazebo/playground/etc. for some special event. Can I do that?
A. Not really, but if you get there early, you’ll probably be fine. The commons areas are for everybody, and unless you’re having a really big gathering should probably be able to accommodate everybody.
Q. I want to landscape my yard, or make my roof bright pink, or add a HAM radio antenna that will make the Eiffel tower look like a toy. Who should I contact?
A. E-mail the Board, and per the CC&Rs the landscaping committee will review your plans and let you know whether or not the change is approved. Since the purpose of the HOA is to preserve value of the neighborhood by preventing unsightly changes, a substitute Eiffel Tower is unlikely to be approved, even if you can get Provo City to allow it. All submissions are responded-to with thirty (30) days or, per the CC&Rs, automatically approved. In general submitting plans at all is a good sign to the Board that you are serious about your improvement and reflects well from the start.
Q. I want to change my house/yard/landscaping and heard that HOAs can be a problem. What should I do?
A. The purpose of any HOA is to help increase the desirability of the association’s members’ properties by ensuring a common standard throughout the HOA’s properties. As a result, an HOA’s CC&Rs will often block certain changes, or require approval for changes. The HOA’s CC&Rs, in Article seven (VII, 7), setup the ‘Architectural Control Committee’ (ACC) with the purpose to, “ensure that all improvements and landscaping within the Development harmonize with existing surroundings and structures.” If there is no separate committee, the Board performs this duty. The CC&Rs in section 7.02 state, “No residential improvement, accessory of or addition thereto, shall be constructed or maintained, and no alteration, repainting, or refurbishing of the exterior of any such improvement, accessories or additions shall be performed, unless complete plans and specifications therefor have first been submitted to and approved by the Committee.” In other words, if you are changing your property in a way visible from the street, or in your back yard, submit some kind of plans to the committee. The best reason to do this is to have the committee let you know if you are doing something that is prohibited by the CC&Rs, such as putting in a chain link fence, as doing so will just waste your time and money. Submitting via e-mail, or in person, is just fine, and a response will come back within thirty days, or more likely, a couple of days. If you do not hear back within a week or so, follow up to ensure that your submission, particularly if made via e-mail, made it to the Board for review, as spam filters may see attachments as something to increase the likelihood of the message being spam and, thus, lost. Common requests include putting in a fence, changing landscaping, adding solar panels, remodeling part of the home, adding a shed, requesting to have chickens, etc.
Q. Are there any restrictions on what I can do with my property?
A. Yes, and the CC&Rs define restrictions in Article six (VI, 6). For example, a house cannot be rented out partially, though it could be in its entirety, in accordance with both Provo City ordinance as well as the HOA CC&Rs. Also, building a multi-family dwelling is prohibited, as would be a commercial building. Letting your landscaping go entirely to the local variety of weeds, regardless of how eco-friendly you may believe that is, is also prohibited. For full details, see the CC&Rs, with Articles four (IV, 4), six (VI, 6) and seven (VII, 7) being applicable by name; feel free to contact the Board if you have specific questions that you feel are not covered in the CC&Rs.
Q. When are HOA meetings? Why do I never know when they are held?
A. The annual meeting will be announced, place and time, in advance with the regular HOA assessment (fee) bills, as well as on the website as soon as it is scheduled. The HOA Board meets every month as well, plus communicates as needed, to discuss current matters, and these meetings are also open to others; contact the Board to find out more. Subscribing to the posts on the HOA website should cause an e-mail to be sent to your registered e-mail address when any topics come up there, including announcement of the annual meeting in case you have a problem with reliably receiving bills in the mail.
Q. Where does the money from HOA assessments end up?
A. Assessments are used to pay for all of the operations of the HOA, from utilities for lights and water, to maintenance of landscaping, from improving the commons areas such as the playground or basketball court, to maintaining the southwest exterior wall.
Q. When do HOA fees increase, and by how much?
A. HOA dues may change, per the CC&Rs in Article twelve (XII, 12), define assessments, or HOA fees, how they may change, how they are used, etc. Some highlights include 12.09 (“Uniform Rate of Assessment”) which states that everybody must be assessed the same amount, 12.08 (“Special Assessments”) which defines when a special, or unusual, assessment could take place, 12.10 (“Quorum Requirements”) which defines the membership required to establish a quorum in order for the activities under 12.08 to be valid, and 12.13 (“Effect of Nonpayment: Remedies”) which defines what happens if owners do not pay assessments.
Q. Why do the HOA assessments sometimes go up?
A. The HOA has been one of the least-expensive (for HOA members) HOAs in the state. For well over a decade, despite a booming economy and inevitable inflation, the HOA assessments remained stagnant, meaning that the purchasing power of the HOA was decreasing year over year. At the same time, time and weather eroded poorly-constructed walls, the park needed improvement and maintenance, and vandals found breaking basketball backboards to be an amusing pastime. Also, various other payments tied to inflation continued to rise, such as the cost of utilities like power and water which the HOA uses to some degree. Last year the board commissioned, as required by law, a reserve study of the HOA’s assets which should have a reserve set aside. Since realizing that math was not on our side, the board has been working to build up the HOA’s assets in anticipation of some large expenses which will come. Known to many is the main exterior wall which is falling/leaning/crumbling in various places and was estimated to cost, per the reserve study, from $195,000 to $227,500 in 2015. In order to cover this cost, as well as other “reserve items” along with other ongoing operational costs, the board has, from time to time, chosen to increase dues. For full financial details of the HOA, come to the annual meeting, or ask a Board member for a past meeting’s yearly report, along with the Reserve Study on the HOA website. For comparison with current total fees, the reserve study’s recommendation was to, for five years, assess $30.58 per month of every property in addition to the current fees to fully fund the reserve in preparation for imminent future expenses. At this time, the Board has decided to delay implementing this change for various reasons.
Q. Some part of the commons area needs help; a dead tree, broken sprinkler, unfortunate-looking bush, graffiti, etc. Who am I gonna call?
A. E-mail, the Board (email@example.com), or talk to a member of the Board, and we will take care of it. Commons areas landscaping is handled by a company that mows/weeds/re-plants, etc. Graffiti is reported by the Board to Provo City Police, and then cleaned up with specially-formulated elbow grease.
Q. I have an issue with the Board; what can I do?
A. As may be the case to resolve most conflicts, the first step may be to ensure a common understanding of the issue at hand, made possible by contacting the Board and explaining your perspective of the issue, and understanding others’ perspectives. The Board is most-easily reached via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and meet monthly to discuss current issues that are not resolved in the meantime via e-mail.
Q. From where did the HOA board originate? I did not hear about any election.
A. The Board was setup by the CC&Rs when the HOA was created and has been maintained per the CC&Rs since that time. Article ten (X, 10) sets up the majority of the components of the board and is available for those details. Elections are held annually from among the HOA members at the annual meeting.
Q. I want to be on the Board because it sounds fun to be involved.
A. There are at least two main ways of getting involved. One way is to run for the Board, which happens once per year as three-year terms end and vacancies open. Attendees of the annual meetings, directly or by proxy, can cast votes, one per lot or property, for those who run, and those with the most votes are added to the Board; see the CC&Rs, 10.13, for details. On the other hand, if you are interested in a particular HOA-related issue, whether it’s related to the commons areas, helping out neighbors in some way, organizing neighbors to some task, or whatever, talk to the Board about your pet project and see if a committee can be formed that will address your desire sooner, and faster.
Q. I own the property with a relative; how many votes do we get at a meeting if we both attend?
A. Each lot is entitled to one vote, so all owners will need to agree on votes cast in order to be counted.
Q. How can I get more votes like mine at the meeting?
A. There are a couple ways to get more votes like yours, with the simplest being convincing others to vote like you do. Another option is to buy more lots within the HOA so you can exercise their votes. The latter option is more-guaranteed once completed, but usually costs more financially.
Q. I want to get out of, or rid of, the HOA. How can I do that?
A. Getting out of the HOA is done by selling all property within the HOA. Getting rid of the HOA is probably not feasible, assuming it is possible, which past research indicates it is not. To do so would require a 60% quorum of HOA members to push the change, would require Provo City and Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to accept it, and would require for the property owners, including banks holding mortgages of properties, to organize in some way (an association of home owners) to pick up the costs left behind as currently covered by the existing HOA, including ownership and taxes of commons areas, the UDOT “Right of Way” (along State Street), etc.
Q. Ugh; this CC&Rs document is longer than anything I’ve seen tweeted, ever. Could you help me know where to look for things?
A. Sure, and the main articles are listed below to help drill down more-quickly; keep in mind this is a legal document, loaded with legalese, so more-official interpretation probably requires somebody trained in the black arts of real property law:
Article 1: Purpose and Effectuation
Article 2: Definitions
Article 3: Property Description and Annexation
Article 4: Duties and Obligations of Owners
Article 5: Property Rights and Conveyances
Article 6: Use Restrictions
Article 7: Architectural Control
Article 8: Insurance
Article 9: Rights of Mortgagees
Article 10: Bylaws: Membership and Voting Rights in the Association
Article 11: Bylaws: Duties and Power of the Association
Article 12: Bylaws: Assessments
Article 13: Miscellaneous
First Supplement: Description of Additional Land
Second Supplement: Description of Additional Land
Third Supplement: Description of Additional Land