Navigating HOA Rules: How to Determine What's Important and What's Petty
March 9, 2023 / by HOA Manager
As a member of a homeowners association (HOA), you may find yourself wondering about the petty rules that govern your community. Are they necessary? Are they enforced? Do they serve a purpose? These are all valid questions that HOA members should be asking.
What are Petty HOA Rules?
First, let's define what we mean by "petty rules." These are rules that may seem trivial or insignificant, but are still enforced by the HOA. Some examples might include regulations on the color of your front door, the type of landscaping allowed in your front yard, or restrictions on what kind of items can be stored in your garage.
HOA rules that might be considered "petty" by homeowners may include:
- Restrictions on the type of holiday decorations allowed in your front yard or on your home.
- Requirements for the specific color or style of outdoor light fixtures.
- Regulations on the type of mailbox or house numbers allowed on your home.
- Restrictions on the size and placement of planters or potted plants on your porch or balcony.
- Limits on the number of pets allowed per household, or restrictions on certain breeds of dogs.
- Rules against hanging laundry on an outdoor clothesline.
- Requirements for the specific type of window coverings allowed, such as blinds or shutters.
- Regulations on the type of lawn ornaments or statues allowed in your front yard.
- Limits on the number of cars allowed to be parked in your driveway or on the street.
- Requirements for the specific type of fencing allowed on your property.
Then, there are some rules that are just unreasonable. For example: board members are wandering around the community with a clipboard and tape measure, and then issuing rule violation letters because the mailboxes are a quarter inch too high or have dust on the backside.
It's important to note that while some of these rules may seem trivial, they may be important to the overall appearance and safety of the community. However, it's also important for boards to prioritize which HOA rules are most important to enforce, and to communicate those rules clearly to homeowners.
Understanding HOA Rule Enforcement
Now, the big question: are these petty rules enforced? Well, the answer is: it depends. Some HOAs are stricter than others when it comes to enforcing rules, while others may take a more lenient approach. However, it's important to remember that as a member of the HOA, you agreed to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the association. This means that, technically, any rule can be enforced if necessary.
It’s important for the HOA board to keep it simple by prioritizing which rules are the most important to enforce. Having fewer rules is often better for the community. It's better to focus on the rules that are most crucial to maintaining the safety and appearance of the neighborhood, rather than nitpicking over every little detail.
Note: Association governing documents are almost always trumped by state law. But, when association documents conflict among themselves, the declaration or proprietary lease carries the greatest weight, followed by the bylaws and then the rules and regulations.
Navigating HOA Rules
So, how can homeowners make sure they are following the rules without feeling like they are constantly walking on eggshells?
Read the Governing Documents
Familiarize yourself with the governing documents in an HOA, such as the bylaws and CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions). These documents outline the rules and regulations of the community and can give homeowners a better understanding of what is expected of them.
Additionally, it's a good idea to attend HOA meetings and get involved in the community. This can help you stay up to date on any changes or updates to the rules, as well as give you a chance to voice your opinions and concerns.
Know What You’re Getting Into
When you're looking at moving into a homeowner's association, familiarize yourself with the expectations of the community. For example, if it's a community that doesn't allow you to park in your driveway, and it's a two car garage but you're a family that has three cars, then it might not be the best fit for you.
It's also worth noting that while some rules may seem petty, they often serve a purpose. For example, regulations on landscaping may help maintain property values, while rules on parking may help ensure that emergency vehicles can easily access the neighborhood.
It's important to keep in mind that the HOA board's goal is to maintain the overall safety and appearance of the community, and sometimes that means enforcing seemingly minor rules.
In conclusion, petty rules are a common aspect of many HOAs, but their enforcement varies from community to community. It's important for homeowners to familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations set forth by the HOA, and to prioritize which rules are the most important to enforce. By working together with the HOA board and staying informed, homeowners can help maintain a safe and enjoyable community for all.