Article Courtesy of Bankrate
By Jennifer Bradley Franklin
Published January 31, 2021
When you're on the hunt for a new place, you might find that
some homes are in a community with a homeowners association, or HOA. Some think
of HOAs as over-reaching neighborhood patrols, while others believe the
association's rules protect and enhance property values.
If you reside in one of these communities, it's important to make sure you're
following the HOA's rules. Here are answers to some of the most common questions
about HOA rules, and how to avoid potential trouble.
What is an HOA?
An HOA is a group of community property owners, governed by rules known as
covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs), who manage the property and
common areas. Typically, the HOA contracts with a professional property
management company to help enforce the rules.
associations are legal entities in which the owners enjoy
the protection, enhancement, maintenance and preservation of
their homes and property," explains Dawn Bauman, senior vice
president, government and public affairs for the Community
Associations Institute (CAI).
"Membership in the community association is mandatory and
automatic for all owners," Bauman says.
When new homeowners buy a home in an HOA-governed community,
they commit to adhering to the rules. By following the
rules, they can get benefits like groundskeeping, exterior
maintenance, trash pick-up and code enforcement, along with
protection of their property's value.
9 common HOA rules violations
Here are some of the most common HOA rules violations you should know about:
HOAs are responsible for the community's curb appeal, so expect yours to have
rules about overgrown lawns, weeds and unkempt exteriors. Be sure to check your
bylaws about what types of trees, plants and shrubs are allowed to be planted.
HOAs often limit how many and what type of motor vehicles (RVs, boats and
commercial vehicles, for example) can be kept on the property, as well as
enforce speed limits and rules about parking in designated areas.
Some HOAs have rules about subletting homes, both because of security and
because most communities' insurance is dependent on the percentage of owners
versus renters. Most HOAs require written permission to rent a home, which may
require a homeowner to join a waitlist.
Homeowners in an HOA can get into trouble for throwing certain items, like boxes
that haven't been broken down or pieces of furniture, into community dumpsters.
It might also be against the rules to put trash cans out too early or not bring
them in by a certain time, since they can attract pests and detract from the
5. Exterior storage
HOAs sometimes limit what types of equipment can be stored outside. For
instance, you might have to keep bicycles or kayaks out of view, behind a fence.
Your HOA might also have rules limiting or preventing the addition of storage
structures that aren't attached to the home.
To keep their residents safe and comfortable, HOAs often have restrictions about
where pets can and can't walk, keeping dogs on leashes and picking up after your
pet. You might also be limited to how many pets you can own, and specific breeds
Most HOAs have rules that restrict loud noises between certain hours. (Most
cities and counties also have noise ordinances that must be followed, even if
the HOA doesn't have restrictions.)
8. Holiday decorations
If you're the neighbor who keeps Christmas lights up until Valentine's Day,
living in an HOA community might not be ideal. Some HOA rules include rules for
how long before and after a holiday you can decorate your home's exterior.
Others might even regulate the size and type of decor allowed.
9. Design changes
HOAs often have strict rules about changing the appearance or structure of your
home. Simple things like painting your house, adding a patio or deck or even
changing your mailbox usually require written approval from the HOA's design
Can the police enforce HOA rules?
The short answer is yes, police can enforce some HOA rules. That's because HOA
rules have to comply with state and local laws and ordinances. For instance,
police could enforce speed limits, noise ordinances and pet leash laws because
they are legal matters, but they wouldn't enforce other HOA rules on landscaping
or paint violations.
What happens if you violate HOA rules?
An HOA can't force a homeowner to sell a home for not following the HOA rules;
however, it can enforce the rules and initiate reasonable fines for violations.
Just ask Atlanta homeowner Parker Singletary. Before Atlanta hosted the Super
Bowl in 2019, one of Singletary's neighbors mentioned that residents were
allowed to rent their homes just for that weekend. Singletary cleaned his house,
took photos and posted them on a popular property rental site.
"Nobody ended up taking my house for the weekend, so I thought I was done with
the situation," Singletary says. Instead, he received a cease-and-desist letter
from a local law firm for breaking the HOA rules, along with a $1,000 fine.
As Singletary discovered, whether you knowingly break the HOA rules or overstep
them by mistake, the consequences can be costly. If a bylaw is broken, it's the
association's responsibility to notify the offending resident to allow them to
comply, or assign a fine.
In Singletary's case, he didn't receive a warning. Instead, he received a $1,000
fine, which he appealed. The fine was later reduced to $300 to cover legal fees.
If a homeowner doesn't pay a fine for a violation, late fees can pile up, and
the HOA can put a lien against their home (even if it has a mortgage). The HOA
can opt to foreclose on the lien, too, so it's best to avoid that outcome if
How to respond to HOA rules violations
1.Address it. Ignoring a violation won't make it go away, and can
actually make the situation much worse. Once you've received a violation notice,
take steps to understand and correct the violation, and either pay or appeal the
fine, if there is one.
2.Don't take it personally.
Remember that the HOA's rules were created to keep the community safe and
comfortable for residents, including you. You also agreed to abide by the rules
when you bought your home.
3.Communicate. While friendly
face-to-face communication can address minor infractions or warnings, written
communication and documentation helps create clarity for everyone involved. When
you've been accused of an HOA rule violation, it's best to address it in
writing. If there are extenuating circumstances - like a family emergency that
causes you to fall behind on lawn care - communicate that to your HOA property
manager. You don't know if an exception can be made until you ask.
4.Get involved. "There is usually a
correlation between the level of homeowner involvement and the long-term success
of a community," Bauman says. So, if you want to improve your community,
volunteer for a board position or attend meetings to see how you can contribute.
Living in an HOA community isn't for everyone, but if you're interested in
joining one, be sure to do your homework and understand the rules before making
an offer on a home. How an HOA enforces its rules and handles violations can
vary between communities, so obtain a copy of the association's CC&Rs to ensure
you understand what you're buying into and agreeing to.
"Homeowners have the right to receive all documents that address rules and
regulations governing the community association," Bauman says, adding that
"since association rules vary from community to community, common HOA violations