What are planned communities?
Planned communities are usually residential communities that are established through covenants restricting the use of your property and establishing a governing entity (known as a property or home owners’ association) which enforces the covenants and may establish additional rules and regulations by which you must abide.
What is a property or homeowners’ association?
A property or homeowners’ association is an organization established by a common agreement of the property owners that exists to enforce the deed covenants relative to the community it serves, and to maintain the somewhat abstract “way of life” that the community supports. It is NOT a government entity such as a municipality. Because an association is not an established agency of the state, it does not possess a right to exercise the state’s police power, nor can it establish ordinances restricting your actions. However, depending on the deed covenants that give rise to the association, the association may be able to issue restrictions on property use and construction in the form of rules and regulations. Almost all associations are able to levy fees to maintain the common areas of the planned community, which fees are often referred to as assessments. The association is organized according to bylaws, which set forth the manner in which property owners may participate in the functioning of the association and the relationship the association bears to property owners. The association is run by a board of directors, which can issue rules and regulations in accordance with the bylaws of the association.
What type of disputes arise in planned communities?
Although associations are not municipalities, many boards of directors enact rules and regulations outside of the scope of their authority in order to restrict activities that they feel are incompatible with their planned community’s way of life. Just as frequently, property owners may object to the amount of their assessment or the need to pay any assessment. Sometimes associations set restrictions on property owners’ construction or land use activities that appear to be presumptively valid but which are ultimately unenforceable because of changes in the community or established development practices in the community. At such times, the aid of legal counsel is almost a necessity to ensure that the rights of the parties involved are fully realized.
What laws apply to planned communities?
All planned communities have covenants which are subject to interpretation according to existing legal precedent regarding deed covenants and land use. Planned communities themselves are further regulated by the Uniform Planned Communities Act. Associations of planned communities have limited ability to regulate construction pursuant to the Uniform Construction Code. Furthermore, all property owners of properties located within a municipality must abide by the laws of that municipality, including its zoning ordinance and building codes, if any. Some of the most important laws regulating properties in a planned community are referenced below.