Perhaps the most misunderstood documents associated with owning a home with a homeowners association are the CC&Rs, the covenants, conditions and restrictions.
This heavy document written in legalese lists in excruciating detail what you can and cant do on your property. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most folks havent really read them.
Hidden among assorted regulations about which colors of beige you can paint your house and exhortations to weed, weed and weed some more are a few odd rules that generally fall into two categories: Why do they care, and how stupid do they think you are? For instance, all of the CC&Rs examined for this article specifically forbid drilling for oil on your property. The universal inclusion of this particular instruction implies that somewhere, some suburbanite tried to set up an oil derrick on his property.
Here is a sample of some of the more eye-opening CC&Rs from across the valley:
In addition to drilling for oil
The same paragraph that forbids drilling for oil also forbids drilling for water and quarrying. Digging for the storage or disposal of hazardous waste or other toxic materials is against the rules, too. Some CC&Rs forbid not only drilling but also storage of drilling equipment.
That seems like a good rule
Several CC&Rs specifically prohibit discharging a firearm on your property, which is a good thing, because even if, like Jed Clampett of The Beverly Hillbillies, you discover oil while shooting at some food, you wouldnt be able to do anything with it.
Your tax dollars at work Not
The CC&Rs for an HOA in North Las Vegas point out that while the sidewalks and parks are to be owned and maintained by the association, the city requires that they be open for the use and enjoyment of the general public. Presumably the term enjoyment refers to the parks. If youre receiving anything that can be construed as joy from a sidewalk, you may need a hobby.
Their secret recipe
One communitys CC&Rs specifically forbid reverse engineering (its terminology) because apparently it believes it has developed the perfect wall and doesnt want its competitors stealing its secret drywall techniques.
Well know it when we see it
Many CC&Rs are curiously vague about definitions, falling back to the judgment of the HOA board. For instance, one HOA forbids storage of vehicles or equipment deemed by the board to be a nuisance. Presumably that means in theory if the president of your HOA decides that Volkswagens are an aberration in the eyes of all right-thinking people, that Beetle has to go.
But landing it here was a real bear
Many CC&Rs forbid keeping work vehicles or recreational vehicles in your driveway. Many allow parking an RV for a day or two for loading and unloading. Nearly all provide a loophole for work vehicles of people working on your house, so the Roto-Rooter man doesnt have to snake in hoses from outside the neighborhood. Several expressly forbid parking airplanes on your property. One includes the admonishment that repairing your airplane on your property is against the rules, even if its in your garage with the door shut.
That smell? It came with the house
Several CC&Rs seem to hold vestigial warnings from the homebuilders reminding the owners that certain annoyances were there before the house. They point out that the flight path, the traffic noise, the earthquake faults, flying golf balls, the scorpions, the coyotes and, in one case, even the pig farm were there all along, and its not their problem. Presumably it exists in the CC&Rs purely to tell the homeowners they are legally obligated to cope with life.
The Siegfried & Roy clause
Most CC&Rs have language limiting the number of animals allowed in a home as well as confining the species to commonly recognized household pets.
This being Las Vegas, where a wider range of animals might be recognized as common household pets, a provision in at least one set of CC&Rs allows the board of directors to determine if an animal is dangerous and thus taboo, which probably keeps a few tigers, ostriches and echidnas out of the neighborhood. Additionally, many CC&Rs allow only pets and forbid animals being raised for food or sales, so residents will have to let that dream of a backyard puppy mill die and get their goat milk from the store.
This explains why the request
for a beaver was denied
Most CC&Rs have a section outlining drainage and stymieing residents from impeding drainage. Why a valley that receives 4 inches of rain annually needs to tell people not to build dams is a mystery.
No, really, the smell is the pig farm
Several CC&Rs forbid any sort of structure on the property, other than the house. This puts a lot of expensive, elaborate playground equipment in violation, along with sheds. At least one set of CC&Rs specifically bans outhouses.
So much for Camp Suburbia
Several CC&Rs forbid temporary structures, shacks and tents. Fires are against the rules in most HOAs, as well, so if you were planning on pitching a tent in the front yard and making smores, youre out of luck.
Because Groundhog Day is important
A resolution tacked on to the CC&Rs of one community allows holiday decorations to be displayed 30 days before the holiday and adds that holiday decorations must be removed within 30 days after the holiday. It does not, however, define holiday, so residents who want to split hairs could keep decorations up year-round, provided they replace and re-theme them every 60 days.
Literally, all the bells and whistles
With very similar language, several CC&Rs exclude the use of horns, whistles, bells or other sound devices except those that are used as part of a security system. Recreational use of bells is out. It can only be an oversight that bagpipes are not singled out.
Define Normal and Ordinary
Several CC&Rs note that a garage may be used only for normal and ordinary purposes but dont go into much more detail on the subject, except to note that garage doors should remain closed, except for brief periods when in use for entering and exiting.
Do you see that sun? Dont use it
Several CC&Rs single out solar panels as being unacceptable. Most have a clothesline policy, and that policy is no! Some have a more moderate admonition to keep clotheslines where they cant be seen, which is sort of a passive solar Dont ask, dont tell policy.
Hedging your bets
Where and what you can plant, particularly in front of your home, is at least touched on by most HOAs. One CC&R restricts plants to 5 feet from the house or block walls to protect the foundations and structural integrity of the walls. Given the small size of the front yards in that neighborhood, one would expect to see a small cluster of plant life in the center of the yard and nothing else. Another set of CC&Rs includes design guidelines that encourage multiple colored rock mulch but limit the colors to two, neither of which can be white. Those same guidelines prevent the use of hedges with thorns along the sidewalk.
English: Its like a language to us
By and large, CC&Rs are written in a language that is simultaneously annoyingly specific and confoundingly vague. One CC&R goes out of its way to point out that words shall be given their normal, commonly understood definitions. And a few pages later it explains that the majority of the votes means more than 50 percent. Another list of CC&Rs includes the following passage. Gender: The use of the masculine gender refers to the feminine gender and vice versa, and the use of the singular includes the plural and vice versa, whenever the context of documents so require.
There may be some conflict of interest
One CC&R list states that in the event of a foreclosure, the sort of thing that might be brought on by say, an inability to pay fines, the association may bid on the home.
The remarkably reasonable clause
The following statement is buried deep within one set of CC&Rs. The growth and success of (the neighborhood) as a community in which people enjoy living, working and playing requires good faith efforts to resolve disputes amicably, attention to and understanding of relationships within the community and with our neighbors, and protection of the rights of others who have an interest in the community.
If we could just get everyone to agree to that, wed have no need for the rest of the CC&Rs.
Contact Sunrise and Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 380-4532.