When considering a move to an Active Adult Community like Dunbarton, potential buyers should understand exactly what they are buying into. After an offer is made and accepted, the buyer will receive a Disclosure Packet which contains, among other items, a copy of the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for the Dunbarton Community Association, a 55+ page document (hereafter referred to as the Declarations) written in legalese and covering the agreement you enter into when you become an owner of a Dunbarton property and a member of the Association. The buyer will have three days to review the document and either accept it and continue with the purchase or decline it and cease the process. After accepting the document, the buyer is locked into the tenets of the Declarations.
Three days may seem like adequate time for the review, but the read can be daunting. This process is required by law and the completion of the review is part of the settlement paperwork. In fact, the cost of providing the Homeowner Packet is included in the settlement costs. To ease the pressure somewhat, the Dunbarton Communications Committee has prepared this article to highlight the parts of the Declarations of most interest to buyers. This summary in no way fulfills the requirement for a full review of the Declarations and a signed acknowledgement of that review. It does make it easier to find the parts most of interest and gives potential buyers more information on what the Association is about before they proceed further on the purchase road. Every realtor considering a transaction in the community should stop by the clubhouse for the latest information.
The Declarations start out with defining Dunbarton as an age-restricted residential community, “housing for older people,” under the “Fair Housing Acts” and applicable federal and state regulations. The Declarations run with the property and are binding on all parties involved. The document is divided into thirteen articles. All are listed below, but this article will elaborate only on those articles of major interest to a buyer.
Article One lists definitions of the terminology used. Article Two outlines the Plan of Development established by the original developer. Article Three covers Property Rights, those of the owners and those of the Association. Article Four delineates membership in the Association and voting rights. Basically, every owner of a lot is a member of the Association and each lot gets one vote in Association-related matters.
Article Five speaks of the Covenant (agreement) for Maintenance Assessment. It defines the purpose of assessments and the difference between Annual Assessments and Special Assessments. It outlines the remedies the Association can take in response to non-payment of assessments. It also addresses the need for a Reserve Fund and the obligation of the Association to maintain such a fund.
Article Six should be of major interest to buyers because it introduces the reader to the Architectural Control process: what can be changed and how to go about requesting a change, especially in the exterior appearance of the individual property. Prospective buyers should make this section one that they fully understand. Some of the items addressed in this section are exterior colors, landscaping, storm doors, and roofs.
Article Seven is perhaps the most important section that prospective buyers should fully understand. It begins with describing the permitted uses of the property. One point of interest concerns the use of the dwelling space as a professional home office. It characterizes the types of permitted use and limitations, such as no client visitation, no employees other than the residents, and compliance with local zoning provisions.
Article Seven continues with other vital rules for residents. It defines the age requirements for occupying the home: 80% of the homes must be occupied by at least one person over 55 years of age; a maximum of 20% could be occupied by at least one person over 50 years of age. All other residents who live in the home with the age-qualified resident must be a spouse, a cohabitant, an occupant’s child eighteen years of age or older, or must be an individual providing primary physical or economic care to the age-qualified resident. Guests under the age of 50 or 55 are permitted for periods of time not to exceed 60 days in any calendar year.
To ensure the age-restriction is adhered to, each owner occupant is obligated to furnish the Association with the names and ages of all occupants of the unit. The Association accomplishes this by circulating and collecting an age survey affidavit every two years.
Article Seven then lists prohibited uses and nuisances. These include prohibitions on noise, keeping livestock, burning trash and litter accumulation on the property. Parking restrictions, guidance on trash containers and many other categories are addressed and potential buyers should review these individually to ensure they understand any implications for their situation.
The next item addressed in Article Seven concerns leasing and transfers. Any lease must be on forms approved by the Association and must inform renters of their obligations under these Declarations. The owner bears the ultimate responsibility for their renter’s behavior.
Of note is a paragraph within Article Seven which obligates Owners to notify the Association in writing of the name and address of any person to whom a proposed sale or transfer is to be made. This to ensure that the Association can properly track valid ownership and occupancy within the community.
Article Eight covers easements and rights. Article Nine discusses maintenance responsibilities, both those of the owner and those of the Association. There is a section on lawn and garden area maintenance. The Association does not maintain the lawn and garden area on the individual lots. Those remain the responsibility of each owner.
Article Ten concerns the insurance requirements of the Association, from property insurance through liability insurance and coverage for the Board of Directors and officers, managers, employees and volunteers of the Association. Article Eleven addresses party walls and fences and the damages and disputes that may arise.
Article Twelve notes that the Association may hire a Management Agent to perform duties as the Board may direct in the operation of the Association. The Dunbarton Community Association has engaged Cardinal Management Group for this activity.
Article Thirteen is titled General Provisions and contains information in just that vein. Some of the topics include Common Area Responsibility, Limits on Liability, Enforcement of these Declarations, and actions concerning Violation Charges and Suspensions. Of major interest in this section is the requirement for amending these Declarations. They may be amended by an instrument signed by, or the affirmative vote of, the Owners of not less than 67% of the lots. That means that 321 owners must vote in favor of any proposed change to these Declarations.
In summary, this is an unofficial review of the highlights of the Declarations of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for the Dunbarton Community Association. It is meant to allow potential buyers in the community to refer to and understand major sections of the Declarations which will become binding on them after their purchase. This does not relieve the buyer from acknowledging receipt and acceptance of the Official Declarations document as part of the buyers Disclosure Packet. Nor does it relieve the realtor from the obligation to ensure that the potential buyer receives the official Declarations document.
If you are interested in knowing more about Dunbarton, contact our clubhouse at 703-530-9600 or your local real estate agent.