Homeowners Associations

Purchasing your dream home can be extremely exciting and rewarding. It is a long process and truly setting yourself up in the house your family needs and deserves can be stressful while also being fun. To ensure you truly get the house of your dreams, and are able to do as you please with your house and property, always read everything given to you about the Homeowners Association, if there is one.

Many suburban neighborhoods these days have Homeowners Associations (HOAs). These associations are set up to ensure the neighborhood continues looking nice year round (no mold growing on siding, mailboxes meeting certain standards, etc.), partly as a way to help keep home values at appropriate market levels. These HOAs can, however, can be a negative for some people.

HOAs are usually neighbors who volunteer to do the work and are voted on by the entire neighborhood. They manage common areas, the looks of homes from the outside, and each HOA has, maintains and updates its own set of covenants, conditions, and restrictions. These generally fall into three categories: resident behavior, architecture, and common responsibilities.

Generally, Homeowners Association rules for any given community are available online. If you read some HOA rules and know you will not be able to abide by them, you need to look for another neighborhood. The breaking of HOA rules, or noncompliance to HOA requests can result in a fine, and that fine can be increased daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on the rules of the particular HOA.

HOAs have extremely broad legal powers to collect fines and fees and regulate activities. If you receive a letter from the HOA board, property manager, or a collection agency and do not respond, HOA can, and most likely will, turn to small claims court or file a lien against your property. Fines imposed by an HOA for failure to meet regulations can be upwards of $100 per day. If ever in a dispute with the HOA, the number one thing to do is continue paying your monthly or yearly HOA fees and document absolutely everything. The HOA can be difficult to navigate. So prior to moving into a neighborhood, read all documentation regarding the HOA, if there is one.

The following is a list of some rules pulled from a variety of HOAs throughout the country (paraphrased):

  • Keep noise levels down
  • Maintain your home and yard
  • Regulations regarding pets (generally types and quantities)
  • No air-drying of laundry on clotheslines
  • Camper/RV can only be in the driveway or on the street for a certain number of days per year- the rest of the year, it needs to be in the garage or moved out of the neighborhood
  • No trash cans outside any days except trash day
  • Mailboxes must be uniform
  • No modifications to the outside of the home (including changing colors) without prior HOA approval- this can include the addition of a swing set, putting a roof over your already existing deck, adding stairs to a steep hill in your back yard
  • If you purchase a shed or have one built, the shed’s roof must match the grade and material of the roof of your home and be approved by the HOA and all adjacent neighbors prior to installation
  • The fence surrounding your property may only be five feet in height and must be approved by the HOA and all adjacent neighbors prior to installation
  • Trees over a certain diameter may not be cut down without prior approval from the HOA and all adjacent neighbors

Of course the rules are different for each Homeowners Association, but the idea is always the same. You have to follow a set of rules regarding yourself, your behavior, and your property, or you will face the possibility of a fine.

Some HOAs have completely outrageous rules. This piece from THE WEEK is a list of seven rather outlandish HOA rules. It’s an interesting read, and may give an idea of what to look out for when reading HOA rules and regulations for your possible future neighborhood.