Everybody Wins!

One of the appeals of the Ashwood neighborhood is the fact that it is a community governed by “covenants.” A covenanted neighborhood is one in which homeowners have placed themselves under obligation to hold each other accountable to a set of minimum standards regarding the upkeep and disposition of their properties. From time to time it is good to remind ourselves of the importance and benefit of our covenants. I want to do that here in the form of brief answers to four basic questions.

What is the value of covenants?

Covenants help us maintain an attractive and respected neighborhood. This in turn enhances both the pleasure and satisfaction of living here and the market value of our properties when the time comes to sell. It also helps us attract responsible new neighbors who are looking for a community in which they can take pride. If, on the other hand, we fail to maintain our observance of the covenants, property values can falter and discriminating buyers can be turned away by what they see. When each homeowners does her or his part to be responsible, all homeowners benefit.

Who is responsible for enforcing the covenants?

The short answer to this question is that we are all responsible for enforcement. If your neighbor is overlooking or neglecting one of the covenants, you should feel free (even responsible) to offer a friendly reminder. This will often be enough to resolve the problem. If, however, this does not get results, you may report the matter to a member of the board of directors. The board will send a letter, encouraging the neighbor to take whatever steps are in order to come into compliance so that further action by the board will not be necessary. If you should ever receive such a letter, do not take offense but regard it as a sign that your own interests are being protected by neighbors who want to see Ashwood remain the appealing, respected neighborhood its residents have worked hard to make it.

What happens when an owner refuses to comply?

The association (which means all of us homeowners) has at its disposal several legal remedies to compel compliance. For example, a schedule of fines is attached to particular violations. Once fines are imposed, they continue to grow until the problem is resolved. Refusal to pay can even lead to the imposition of a lien against the violator’s property, meaning that, if the property is ever sold, any fines owed to the association will be paid out of the proceeds of the sale. The Ashwood Homeowners Association has rarely had to resort to such remedies and would prefer never to have to do so.

What are some covenants commonly overlooked?

Some homeowners forget that, if you want to rent your house, you must get written permission in advance from the association through its board of directors and comply with certain regulations designed to ensure that neighborhood standards are maintained. If you want to paint or make other improvements to the exterior of your house, paint colors and improvement plans must be approved by the association’s Architectural Control Committee. Regularly parking cars on the street and parking or storing certain kinds of vehicles and recreational equipment in view of public roadways are also contrary to the covenants.

Another area of concern (though it is not mentioned explicitly in the covenants) is the need to keep our lawns well maintained. Lawn maintenance requires regular attention and effort, of course, and we are all very busy. The condition of our lawns, however, is unavoidably a public and communal matter. An unsightly lawn is a blight on the neighborhood as a whole. Weeds, furthermore, do not respect property lines. It can be frustrating to expend, time, money, and effort to maintain your own lawn only to have seeds from your neighbor’s crabgrass regularly spoil your results. If you lack the time or expertise to do this yourself, you might consider a contract with one of the reasonably priced lawn care companies in the Neighborhood Referrals list. Remember also that, if you are going to be away from home for an extended period, or if you move away and put your house on the market, you need to remain arrangements for someone to take care of your lawn.

Of course, no one wants to live in a police state. We do all want to live, however, in an attractive neighborhood where fellow homeowners help us protect and increase the value of what we have invested into our homes. When we all do our parts, everybody wins.

Ashwood HOA Covenants