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What Are HOA CC&Rs? | Practical Guide for Title and Escrow

HOA Documents, HOA Management, Title & Escrow,
Published: Dec 20, 2023
Updated on: May 17, 2024
  by Editorial team

According to the U.S. Census, an astonishing 84% of new homes sold in 2022 are in homeowners associations (HOAs)*. For the majority of buyers, this means adhering to the rules and regulations the HOA sets. 

However, more often than not, buyers don’t fully understand the authority an HOA has in their community and end up in trouble, either accumulating fines or living under restrictions they didn’t, in fact, agree to. 

Here’s where Title and Escrow professionals come to the rescue.

As an invaluable assistant in the closing process, an escrow officer helps gather all closing documents. They are the people who not only facilitate the smooth completion of the deal but also aid buyers in understanding the full extent of their responsibilities living in an HOA-governed community.

One of the key sources of information regarding the responsibilities of homeowners in an HOA is the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). 

This article will delve into what HOA CC&Rs entail, their importance, and the distinctions between CC&Rs and other HOA rules and regulations. 

This knowledge will enable Title and Escrow officers to advise your clients more accurately and help mitigate potential legal issues down the line.

What Are Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs)?

houses on a San Francisco street

CC&Rs are legally binding guidelines that outline the responsibilities and restrictions for homeowners within an HOA. These rules are designed to uphold the aesthetic uniformity, quality of life, and property values within the community. 

CC&Rs are part of the HOA’s governing documents. They are officially recorded at the county recorder’s office and are legally binding. Once a buyer purchases a property within that HOA, they automatically agree to comply with these regulations.

Most of the time, the CC&R is very straightforward and concerns rules that are relatively easy to live by. A homeowner can be, for example, obligated to mow their lawn regularly or keep outdoor spaces tidy. These are rules buyers can easily follow. 

But there are those rules that seem unreasonable, like the HOA requiring a homeowner always to park their car in the garage. Or even prohibit visitors from parking on the street. 

If an owner does not comply with the covenants and restrictions, they can be subjected to various penalties. That’s why escrow officers should make sure their clients are fully aware of these requirements prior to the closing. 

Why Are CC&Rs Important?

three colorful houses in one row

In all fairness, the CC&Rs, although in some cases leading to issues, exist for a very fair reason. They are crucial in maintaining the good standing of an HOA-governed community. 

The CC&Rs help guide homeowners to standards and behaviors that positively influence the status of their community.  For one, ensuring everyone adheres to the set rules creates a more harmonious living environment where the welfare of all residents is protected. 

What’s more, the better the properties within the community are maintained, the higher their value will be. 

Understanding the specific CC&Rs of an HOA is crucial for escrow professionals who emphasize superb customer relationships and pride themselves in communicating every important closing detail with their clients. Especially when CC&Rs can have a significant impact on what homeowners can and cannot do within the community. 

For example, if a buyer is purchasing the home with the intention of renting it out, they should be aware of whether the HOA allows investment purchases. And, if yes, what the conditions of renting are. Escrow officers should help owners gather that information from the HOA’s CC&Rs.  

CC&Rs vs HOA Rules and Regulations: What’s the Difference?

ariel image of an houses in a circle

While CC&Rs and HOA Rules and Regulations seem similar, they serve different functions within the HOA’s governance structure.

CC&Rs are typically concerned with the homeowners’ obligations and restrictions, such as property maintenance standards, architectural guidelines, and noise levels.

On the other hand, the HOA’s Rules and Regulations are the operating rules of an HOA community. They are more detailed and often set stricter rules for homeowners than the CC&Rs. 

The Rules and Regulations are often used to govern how homeowners use common areas and amenities like pools, gyms, playgrounds, and clubhouses. So they may impose schedules for using the amenities, for example, restricting the use of the pool after 10 p.m. 

The Rules and Regulations, however, are optional, and not all HOAs have them. They also differ in the procedure for amendments. 

Altering CC&Rs requires a majority vote from the HOA members and must be recorded with the county recorder’s office. On the other hand, changing  HOA Rules and Regulations is typically a more straightforward process that usually requires only a board vote.

Knowing the difference between CC&Rs and Rules and Regulations helps escrow agents better navigate the closing process and offer clients a superior customer experience. 

Common CC&R Examples in HOAs & How Understanding Them Offers Better Customer Experience

little red house model on table next to a metal key on a key chain

The CC&Rs can vary significantly for the different HOAs. There are, however, several basic governing areas included in most CC&Rs that Title and Escrow officers should be familiar with: 

Property Maintenance

 Here, homeowners are required to maintain their properties to a certain standard. This might mean regular lawn maintenance, refreshing exterior painting at certain intervals, and overall cleanliness guidelines. 

👆 Title and Escrow officers should ensure the owner is fully aware of the amount for maintenance they’ll be obligated to pay every month. Sharing the information will ensure the deal doesn’t fall through because the buyer wasn’t ready to meet the expected maintenance fee.

Architectural Guidelines

 These rules govern any architectural modifications to properties within the HOA. Any exterior renovations usually require approval from the HOA board or Architectural Review Committee. For example, homeowners may need to gain approval from an architectural review board before adding a deck or installing a fence. 

👆 If, in the process of closing the deal, the Title or Escrow agent finds out about modification plans the buyer has, they should point out how the guidelines would affect the buyer’s plans. Managing customer expectations helps the agent guarantee their client gets what they are looking for. It also builds confidence and trust with the customer that the Title or Escrow agent is protecting their interests. 

Noise Levels

This type of regulation, as the name suggests, regulates excessive noise levels. By enforcing these restrictions, the HOA ensures everyone in the community benefits from a peaceful living environment.

👆 Ensuring the homeowner is aware and agrees with the noise level requirements is another task on the escrow agent’s checklist. Being fully transparent with the homebuyer guarantees that the agent has done their best to secure the future comfort of their client. 

Pet Restrictions

The CC&Rs also regulate if homeowners can keep pets in the community. An HOA can prohibit certain types or breeds of pets, or a limit may be placed on the number of pets.

👆 As our co-founder Anton shares in The Title Nerds podcast, pets are part of people’s families, and guaranteeing that the homebuyer is aware of any pet restrictions takes care of troubles that may arise later. No homeowner will ever recommend a Title or Escrow officer who knew about and didn’t disclose information regarding pet restrictions. 

Vehicle Restrictions

car parked in front of house garage next to a single palm tree

An HOA’s CC&Rs can also set general rules regarding parking and its restrictions. For example, for specific areas on the community premises, parking may not be allowed. Or the HOA may impose limits on overnight guest parking. 

👆 It’s a good practice for Title and Escrow officers to consider the effects of vehicle restrictions on the homebuyer’s day-to-day. Being sensible with such issues and communicating them to homebuyers on time demonstrates superior customer service. And in an industry reliant on personal recommendation, offering best in class customer experience helps future business growth. 

Property Use 

Another major point in the CC&Rs that Title and Escrow agents should be well acquainted with is property use. Some HOAs may prohibit owners from using the property as a place for running a home business or leasing their house for short-term rentals. Agents should make sure to inform the buyer if there are any property use restrictions. 

👆 If your customer is looking to spend half their year in the home and rent it out the rest, they would want to know if they’ll be allowed. Naturally, a Title or Escrow officer looking to offer exceptional service and build long-term relationships with their clients would make sure that the future homeowner knows their plans are 

What Are the Penalties for Violating a CC&R?

Non-compliance with CC&Rs can result in a variety of penalties, depending on the nature and frequency of the violation. It’s the duty of the Title or Escrow officer to let the homebuyer know that non-compliance with the CC&Rs leads to penalties so there are no unpleasant surprises after the closing. 

A few of the penalties include: 

  • Fines: Where the HOA imposes a monetary penalty for violations.
  • Suspensions: In this case, the HOA suspends the homeowner’s access to shared areas and amenities until the violation is rectified.
  • Legal Action: In severe cases, the HOA may also choose to pursue legal action against the violator.
  • Forced Compliance: When the homeowner doesn’t comply with the HOA’s CC&R, the HOA may also choose to take action that forces the owner into compliance. For example, take care of repairs and bill them to the homeowner.
  • Liens and Foreclosures: In case the homeowner doesn’t pay their dues or assessments, the HOA can impose a lien on the property, potentially leading to foreclosure.

HOA CC&Rs vs HOA Bylaws

ariel image of houses in a perfect two rows

While both the CC&Rs and bylaws are HOA’s governing documents, they serve different functions. CC&Rs govern the homeowners’ rights and obligations, while bylaws dictate the operation of the HOA itself. 

HOAs are legally classified as non-profit corporations. That requires them to establish bylaws with which to manage their daily functions. These bylaws are also known as subdivision or neighborhood association bylaws.

The bylaws are legally binding documents and are enforceable. It’s important to know that when registering as a non-profit with the Secretary of State, an HOA is required to present its articles of incorporation. However, that requirement does not extend to bylaws. Bylaws don’t need to be registered to be effective. 

Common clauses in an HOA’s bylaws include:

  • Information about the board of directors
  • The regularity of board meetings
  • Guidelines for meetings and quorum
  • Schedule of board elections
  • Procedures for board nomination and election
  • Maximum number of board members who can serve concurrently
  • Term length for board members
  • Responsibilities and duties of board members
  • Voting rights of members

Understanding these distinctions can help escrow professionals navigate the complexities of HOA-governed properties. Both CC&Rs and bylaws are legally binding, and violations can result in penalties.


white house and green grass front year on a sunny day

A deep understanding of every HOA-related document gives every Title and Escrow officer a superior advantage in the closing process. Knowledge of the ins and outs of CC&R, in particular, helps steer clients clear of any unexpected bumps or hassles down the line.

When you really know your way around these documents, you can guide clients through the maze of rules and regulations, ensuring they don’t trip up on any hidden clauses or unexpected restrictions. You help the sale go smoothly and keep homebuyers happy and stress-free in the long run. 

It’s a win-win situation. Your clients get peace of mind by trusting your expertise, and you get to build your reputation as a knowledgeable and reliable professional in the real estate world. 

This article offers the fundamental understanding every Title and Escrow officer should have. Building on the knowledge of the specifics of the state your business operates in will give you the competitive edge to stand out and offer the superior customer service your clients deserve. 

*  84% of new homes sold in 2022 are in homeowners associations (HOAs)

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