HOA rules: Read them
If you fall in love with a home in [area] with a homeowners association (HOA), check the HOA rules as soon as you can. There may be deal-breaking provisions in that document. For instance:
- Many associations ban outdoor smoking
- They may also tell you what kind of plants you’re allowed to have in your yard
- It is very common for HOAs to regulate the color you paint your house and other exterior changes
HOAs can limit the number of and types of pets you can have, and whether you can put up a clothesline or even park in your own driveway. And if the regs drive you out, they may prohibit the “for sale” sign in your yard.
HOAs: good, bad and ugly
HOAs can be good for their members. They monitor your neighbor’s behavior as well as yours, and that can be a positive thing. If the family across the street lets their dogs bark all night, rebuilds auto motors out front, and throws parties every weekend that make it impossible for you to get into your driveway, you don’t have to confront them.
Instead, you can have your HOA enforce the rules and you can return to quietly enjoying your property. HOAs can keep members from harming their neighbors’ property values with visible junk or garbage or bizarre home “improvements.” However, they can also nit-pick what you consider ordinary activities.
Typical HOA rules
Most of the rules should be found in the CC&Rs. But some HOAs list rules in a separate document. They cover:
- Subletting or renting
- The exterior, including paint colors or landscaping
- Other renovations or repairs, like installing solar panels or a satellite dish on the roof
- The process to change or add rules, which may be burdensome
- Penalties for breaking rules
- HOA’s recourse for nonpayment, like fines, liens and foreclosure
- Number and type of pets allowed
- Street parking policy
- Guest policy for shared areas and facilities
- Attendance for HOA meetings
What you should do before buying a home in [area]
It may not sound fun, but it’s critical that you read the HOA’s covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) to see if you and your association are a good fit. Restrictions against holiday decorations or pets may make you think twice if you have a family.
You’ll also want to look at its bylaws and finances. An unhealthy HOA may defer needed maintenance, compromising your property value. In addition, if more than 10 or 15 percent of the residents are behind on their HOA dues, you may have a hard time getting a mortgage. Ditto if the HOA is involved in litigation.
Sooner beats later
Most of the time, you don’t get access to the HOA documents unless you make an offer on the property. But you can ask questions in advance. if you have a motorhome, for instance, find out about parking. Inquire about your dogs and your clothesline before going too far in the process. If you have any questions about our local [area] HOA’s, give me a call at [phone]!