The Importance of Understanding Ohio HOA Laws

Homeowners associations are bound by certain laws in Ohio. Board members must familiarize themselves with these laws, as well as federal laws, to avoid incurring large penalties. In some cases, violating the law can even result in liability claims and legal action. And, as you may know, lawsuits can be very expensive.

Additionally, HOA boards must uphold their fiduciary duties and act within the best interest of the community. It is difficult to do this, though, without understanding the different state laws that affect homeowners associations.

For Planned Communities:

The Ohio Planned Community Law, found under O.R.C. § 5312.01, regulates the creation, authority, management, and operations of planned communities in the state. According to this law, all homeowners associations must record a declaration and a set of bylaws with the county recorder’s office.

Unlike some states, though, Ohio’s laws governing planned communities are not as comprehensive. It only consists of one chapter, which is divided further into 15 sections.

For Condominiums:

Ohio has its own set of statutes governing the creation, management, authority, and operation of condominiums. The Ohio Condominium Property Act, found under O.R.C. § 5311, consists of a single chapter. It is worth noting that sections 5311.15 and 5311.241 have been repealed.

For Nonprofit Corporations:

The Ohio Nonprofit Corporation Law, found under O.C.R. § 1702.01, governs the corporate procedure and structure of corporations in the state. A majority of homeowners associations in Ohio organize themselves as nonprofit corporations. Therefore, they must follow the provisions of this law. If you are unsure of your corporate status, though, you can easily do a business search on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.

Ohio Fair Housing Laws:

The Ohio Fair Housing Law, found under O.R.C. § 4112, provides similar protections to homeowners as the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). According to Ohio law, homeowners associations may not discriminate against anyone based on the following classes:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Familial status
  • Military status
  • Disability

Victims of discrimination practices under the Ohio Fair Housing Law can report the issue to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. On a federal level, victims can turn to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Keep in mind that victims must file their complaints with the government within a year from when the discriminatory act took place.

On the other hand, victims can also choose to sue the offender in the federal district court. Victims can do so within two years from when the discriminatory act took place.

Fair Debt Collection Practices in the State of Ohio:

In Ohio, consumers also receive protection against unfair debt collection practices. Under O.R.C. § 1321.45, debt collectors may not use practices considered unfair, abusive, or deceptive when trying to collect a debt. This law shares a similar framework with the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which deems homeowners as consumers and HOA dues as debts.

Victims of prohibited debt collection practices can submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. On a state level, victims can report the matter to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Alternatively, victims can also take legal action against the debt collector in federal or state court. According to the FDCPA, the lawsuit must be filed within a year from when the violation took place.

Specific Ohio HOA Laws:

Here is your quick guide to specific laws in Ohio that apply to homeowners associations.

Assessment Increases

According to Section 5312.10(C)(2) of the Ohio Planned Community Law, an association’s board may not make assessment increases if the association’s declaration imposes a limitation on said assessment. Of course, owners can choose to amend their declaration to increase this limit. Section 5312.05(A) of the law, though, states that 75 percent of the membership must vote to approve the amendment.

Records Inspection

Homeowners have a right to inspect the association’s records as described under O.R.C. Section 5312.07. They can also request a copy of these records, including minutes, books, and financial reports. But, there are some exceptions to the rule. Homeowners cannot copy or review any records described under Section 5312.07(B) unless the board says otherwise. This includes records related to pending litigation, contracts under negotiation, and the like.

Maintenance Responsibilities

Pursuant to O.R.C. Section 5312.08(A), the association shoulders the burden of maintaining and repairing the common elements, while each individual owner is responsible for their own lots and dwelling units. This also includes the utility lines that serve each owner’s unit. If an association’s declaration states otherwise, though, the association must follow the provisions set forth within its declaration.

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