HOA's (Home Owners' Association) are often viewed as the "bad guys" of home ownership. In fact, many home owners don't recognize the need to submit to HOA rules and regulations because they do, afterall, own the property and believe they should be free to live accordingly. It is true that some HOA's can be overly particular and eager to fine residents. However, the opposite is also true and can result in lower property values do to unkempt yards, overflowing trash cans and other unpleasantness.
The bottom line is that HOA's exist to protect home owners from declining property values in effort to enforce rules which are beneficial to a community. Residents are less likely to maintain a clean, well-maintained law, for example, if they need not fear repercussions for failure to do so.
Fines are excellent tools for reinforcing mutually beneficial rules. If you are fearful of such fees, there are seven simple ways to avoid them:
1. Permission vs. ForgivenessSure, it might be easier to ask forgiveness rather than request permission, however this isn't the case with HOA's. If you are contemplating making changes to the outward appearance of your home, inquire as to whether your HOA has rules regarding uniformity among property owners. For example, make sure your shutters are not required to meet a certain color and style before you change them. In some cases, owners have proceeded with changes before requesting HOA permission, resulting in fines as the changes were not in keeping with HOA bylaws and were forced to pay for new shutters...again! While they might have sought HOA forgiveness, this was a costly mistake for the property owners and frustrating in addition.
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2. Aroma Therapy vs. Aroma TraumaUnpleasant smells are considered a common and inconvenient violation against other residents. Many HOA's do not tolerate smoking, vaping or other aromatic activities to take place in a vicinity where other residents could be affected. As some people have severe allergies, such activities should take place in the privacy of your home. If you live in a private community with an HOA, inquire regarding common areas and designated smoking areas in order to avoid fines and inconveniencing the neighbors. In addition, make sure you are not littering the grounds with tobacco paraphernalia. That is a finable offense as well.
3. Large AnimalsMany HOA's, especially condo associations, have limitations regarding the number of pets, breed and weight restrictions as well as quantity for dogs. They might have stipulations regarding other animals, too. Be sure to learn the pet restrictions before you move on up to the east side. You might find that you have to choose between Fido and the deluxe apartment in the sky!
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4. RentBefore you rent your home out on VRBO, check with your HOA regarding permission. Most communities do not want home owners utilizing their properties as short-term rentals. Extra income is always a bonus, but HOA fines and possible eviction notices could defeat the purpose. Also, your county might have specific restrictions and licensing requirements for renting out your home.
5. Man Judges the Outward AppearanceWhile the Lord judges the heart, HOA's like to judge exteriors and are vigilant about enforcing lawn maintenance among residents. No overgrown weeds, lawns resembling fields, certain shrubbery and other restrictions are not uncommon in the HOA world. Before you plant that beloved Blue Spruce, check with your HOA. Certain types of trees and height requirements might restrict you from planting what you want and where you want it. While you're at it, you might want to make sure it's okay to leave the boat and RV parked out front. That is typically frowned upon.
6. Your Driveway isn't a Used Car LotDon't channel your inner Sanford & Son by storing multiple cars, motorcycles, RV's and old trucks in your driveway or, worse yet, on your lawn. It isn't pretty. It deteriorates neighboring property values, not to mention your own! HOA's will fine you faster than you can say "I'm comin' home, Elizabeth" if your property looks like a used car sales lot! If you are planning a party at your home, notify your HOA in advance to learn about proper parking protocol for guests. It would also be a courteous gesture to notify your neighbors in advance.
7. Cleanliness is Next to GodlinessHOA's have rules about what time you can set your trash on the curb for garbage pick-up. Do it a day early, and you'll reap some financial consequences as critters are likely to dine on your trash buffet... Learn the rules regarding large items such as furniture or whether you should break down the boxes and recycle them.
Most HOA rules are all about mutual respect for neighboring homes and maintaining a pleasant, tidy community which draws people in rather than repelling them out.
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