There may be an impression among Louisiana residents that homeowners associations are very bureaucratic in that they tell individual residents in subdivisions what they can and cannot do.
However, the power of these associations is only as extensive as are the restrictive covenants that they are charged with enforcing. Without legally binding restrictive covenants, the association really has no power to regulate a neighborhood's appearance or impose penalties on owners who do not comply.
Restrictive covenants are complicated aspects of property law. A homeowner in the greater New Orleans area who has a question about a restrictive covenant, or how it may or may not apply to her situation, should therefore consider speaking to an attorney with experience in condominium and homeowners association law.
Usually, a developer of a neighborhood or subdivision will create restrictive covenants at the time the developer plats out the neighborhood in to several different legal parcels of land. These covenants may specify, to great detail, how a house or other improvements on the property are supposed to look, how far they have to be from the curb, and the like. In other words, they legally restrict a future owner's right to use the land as he pleases.
These covenants typically run with the land, which is another way of saying that they remain in force even if the land changes hands several times. This is why it is so important for someone who is interested in buying property in a platted subdivision to first know what they legally can and cannot do on their land, as they may be agreeing to abide by a rule that precedes them by years or even decades.
Even with the best preparation, though, a resident may find herself in the midst of a dispute over a restrictive covenant. If unresolved, these disputes can leave a homeowner in a serious financial jam.