If you’re house hunting for the perfect place to call home, odds are you’ve come across a few listings located in a community with a homeowners association (HOA). These organizations are typically established to maintain community standards that protect the neighborhood and – more importantly to most – property values.
It’s not uncommon to come across horror stories about dealing with HOAs on the Internet. People often complain about nosy neighbors, ridiculously stringent regulations, and excessive fines for falling even a hair out of compliance with those regulations. We can’t (and won’t) say these stories all tend to be exaggerations or fabrications from irked homeowners. We can say that there are often good reasons for most HOA rules to exist and any consequences for violations are meant to protect those reasons (see above: safety and property values).
Perhaps diving into some of the stranger HOA rules that have led to fines is a topic for another time. For now, let’s focus on some common reasons why almost anyone would be fined in nearly any HOA. Read on to discover # common reasons for HOA fines and contact our real estate attorney at Bundren Law Firm for assistance if you need legal help.
1. Your Home’s Landscaping
As mentioned twice before, one of the purposes of an HOA is to protect property values within the community. One of the most well-known (and satirized) ways this is done is to lay out clear rules about what kind of landscaping is permitted and how it should be maintained. Failure to abide by these rules is sure to result in a fine.
Chances are your HOA board members aren’t measuring individual blades of grass with rulers – although don’t be too surprised if they are – but the agreement you signed probably contains rules about making sure your lawn doesn’t get too long and that weeds get pulled. You may also be required to maintain flowerbeds or ensure your trees are trimmed. Any rules such as these are intended to protect the look and feel of the neighborhood, which is probably one of the reasons that attracted you in the first place.
2. Your Garbage Cans & Their Contents
HOAs often broker deals with waste management companies to provide trash removal services for the neighborhood. Because of this – and the garbage collection company’s own policies – you can land yourself with a fine by placing inappropriate items in your bins or by overflowing them to the point that their lids won’t close.
To protect the appearance of the community, HOAs commonly have rules about when garbage cans can be placed on the street and how long after pickup they can remain there. It’s also not unusual for HOAs to establish rules that ensure garbage cans are stored so that they are not clearly visible from the street.
3. What Can You Store Outside?
Your home is essentially a big box full of stuff – but what happens when some of your stuff can’t fit in your house or you don’t want to store it there? You should consult with your HOA’s rules about outside storage before finding out the hard way that a garden shed is a violation or that you need to find some way to cram that kayak into your garage.
You can also expect with relative certainty that your HOA’s rules forbid outside storage within view of the street. Some items, like basketball hoops, can get a pass.
4. Your Holiday Decorations
Many people observe the holidays by decorating the exteriors of their homes with decorations for Christmas, Halloween, and the Fourth of July, or even Easter and Thanksgiving. Leaving these decorations up for weeks or months after a holiday concludes, however, may be a violation of your HOA’s rules and subject you to a fine.
There are probably also rules about how long before a holiday that decorations can go up. Some HOAs may also stipulate how homes can be decorated or which kinds of decorations are prohibited. Others may even prohibit any kind of exterior decoration regardless of the holidays.
5. Using Your Property as a Rental
For some people, investing in a rental property may be integral to their retirement plan or provide a supplemental means of much-needed income. Renting out a home or condominium without checking your HOA’s rules about rentals, though, can land you with serious fines and even legal trouble.
HOAs tend to have very strict rules about subletting out of concern for the neighborhood’s security. Insurance in the community is also likely dependent upon the ratio of renters to homeowners in the area, which could mean higher rates if more and more liability-prone renters are in the area. If you intend to rent your home, it’s best to consult with your HOA first and consider seeking legal assistance if you encounter unfair friction.
6. Pets & Pet Waste
Rules about collecting pet waste on lawns and sidewalks are among the most common you’ll encounter. Bad neighbors on walks with their dogs and don’t pick up after them can be surprised to find hefty fines mailed to them by their HOA. If you don’t make an effort to clean up after your dog, now’s a good time to begin this new habit – not only to avoid unnecessary fines, but to practice being a good neighbor to those around you.
HOAs are probably also keen on enforcing rules about keeping pets on leashes, limiting the number of animals that one household can have, and even limiting the species or breed of animal if it’s in the community’s best interest.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you find yourself in conflict with an HOA or represent an HOA in conflict with a homeowner, Bundren Law Firm can help. Our attorney has the experience and skill it takes to provide the legal support you need to respond to your situation with effective action. We provide each client with a personalized experience, so rest assured that the details of your affairs will be taken into account as we draft solutions tuned toward achieving the best possible outcomes.Learn more about working with Bundren Law Firm by contacting us online or calling (918) 992-3300 today!