Association can legally enforce its own rules

Question: My homeowners association has a rule that states “parking is not permitted in the street at any time.” The streets are wide and the homes have two-car garages. Can this rule be enforced?

C.A., Everett

Answer: Most homeowners associations have rules called Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions. The covenants are essentially a form of private zoning that imposes rules of property ownership on the owners within a housing development. The initial rules are written by the developer and administered by a homeowners’ association, which also is set up by the developer when a new housing development is created.

You’ll find a copy of the restrictions attached to your title insurance policy in the closing papers that you received from the escrow company when you bought your home. The rules may impose standards for lawn and home maintenance, preserve views, ban parking of boats and trailers in front of your house, etc. These rules are intended to maintain a clean, attractive neighborhood for the benefit of all property owners and to preserve and enhance home values in the neighborhood.

Covenants are legally enforceable by the homeowners association. So if there is a rule that states that you cannot park on the street at any time and you choose to violate that rule, a neighbor could file a complaint against you with your homeowners association. You would then be subject to whatever fine or penalty the association board chose to impose, according to the bylaws of your association.

Some homeowners may feel the covenants are Draconian rules that infringe on their freedom to use their own property as they wish. But you were given a copy of them before you closed on the purchase of your home. You should have read the rules, and if you found them unacceptable, you should have backed out of the deal.

Covenants are intended to benefit all homeowners in a neighborhood. Most people want to live in a neighborhood where the homes are clean and painted and the yards are well kept. When you drive into a neighborhood that is full of homes with weedy, overgrown lawns and peeling paint on the houses, you get the feeling the residents don’t care about their property. Neglect tends to breed further neglect. If I see a neighborhood like that, I assume it’s on a downhill slide and will only get worse. Who would want to buy a home in a neighborhood like that?

Parking cars on the street might not seem like blight to you, but it does detract from the appearance of the neighborhood. In my neighborhood, it is against the rules to park a boat or RV on the street, but cars are allowed to park there. The developers of your neighborhood decided to take a hard-line approach and ban all parking on the street. That may seem like an overly aggressive policy, but again, you were given a chance to review these rules before you closed on the purchase of your home.

The moral to this story is that you should always read all the documents you are given when you buy a home. If you don’t understand something, ask somebody to explain it to you.

Mail your real estate questions to Steve Tytler, The Herald, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Fax questions to Tytler at 425-339-3435 or e-mail him at

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