The pros and cons of homeowners associations
Is your dog too heavy? You won't like a homeowners association, but your neighbor might.
© GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images
When you live in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners or condominium association, you might not have the final say over the color of your house, the size of your pet or how you decorate for the holidays. If you don't like the association's rules, there's little you can do, short of suing or moving out.
"Most associations work reasonably well most of the time, but there are tons of examples of really troubling rules," says Evan McKenzie, associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of the book "Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government."
Among other controversial actions, associations have banned owners from renting out residences and have forbidden inflatable lawn ornaments at Christmas.
HOAs and condo associations are bound by state laws. Florida, Nevada and Virginia have ombudsmen to hear complaints. Other states' governments play a minimal role, McKenzie says.
Restrictions on house color, pet weight and landscaping are found in an association's covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CCRs. The CCRs are filed with the county clerk and are public record.
HOAs usually have good intentions
Most association rules are well-intended, says David Lupberger, home-improvement expert at ServiceMagic, a website that connects homeowners and service professionals. (ServiceMagic is an MSN Real Estate partner.) You don't want neighbors parking a recreational vehicle in the driveway or painting their home bright purple, he says.
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But not everyone finds the rules reasonable, and disputes have arisen over CCRs that ban exterior holiday lights or allow only white lights. Some associations enforce pet-weight restrictions so zealously that they put dogs on a scale.
Another contentious issue is association amendments that ban home and condo owners from renting out their dwellings. For strapped owners, leasing to tenants could be the difference between foreclosure and keeping the property, McKenzie says.
In California, associations can restrict rentals only if the rules were place before the beginning of this year, says David Feingold, a partner at Ragghianti Freitas LLP, a law firm in San Rafael, Calif.
Frustrated? Painting the house pink isn't an option, unless you want to face fines and a lawsuit. The best defense against onerous restrictions is to read the CCRs before buying the dwelling, says Donna DiMaggio Berger, partner at Katzman Garfinkel & Berger, a law firm in Margate, Fla. Then decide if you can live comfortably within the rules.
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"If you are looking to buy, and there is a dumb restriction, don't buy there," Berger says. "You can't move into a community with the restriction and think it won't apply to you."
Most times these tyrants do not have full time jobs so they try to display their mediocre management skills by run roughshod over tenants, who have full time careers. My condo complex had such a situation, so several of us sicced the IRS on the condo board. Out of 6 members, 4 were cheating on their taxes by listing exorbitant HOA fees for deductions.
A tenant in a similar complex down the road got his revenge on the HOA board by hiring a torch.
What many people (including some posters here) do not understand is that the whole concept behind the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R's, Declaration) come from old English law. Typically, it is the developer who creates the rules, although there may be city or county requirements that need to be met in the rules. A lot of the reason for forming an HOA is to deal with services that the city or county don't want to provide, the require the HOA to take care of those things, although they still tax at the same rate as everybody else.
My wife and I live in a townhome community. The first thing I did was to read the CC&R's before we started touring model homes, to know what we were really looking at. It's clear that some of our neighbors didn't read the CC&R's and that they really didn't think through the purchase of their home. Yes, there are restrictions on what you can or cannot do. It's part of the contract with your neighbors when you purchase the house. Those who say they wouldn't live in an HOA, that's fine. Those who purchased in one but don't like the rules, well, too bad. Sell and make it better for your neighbors.
Let a bunch of homeowners in, though, and they will wind up in a terrible fight with everybody. Pretty soon there a lawsuits and people moving out and others refusing to pay.
If you don't mind dead dirt race cars in the front yards and broken washing machines on the porch, find a house you like in a non-HOA neighborhood.
Then sometime later you can see the good of a centrally managed HOA.
HOA'S are a freaking joke these rules are set up by some crotchety one sided outdated fat windbags.Some i have seen in action remind me of some jack booted thugs that are basically the rule police they walk around noting things that are not in line with there rules i myself would never buy a home or condo that are basically bound in chains whats the point of buying when some jackass get to dictate how YOUR home should be and the pets i swear these people are absurd the only 1 thingb i agree with is painting weird colors thats the only one to make any sense other than that if someone said something about my overweight dog should be prepared for a quick reply if not action i had issues with my hoa guy i called adolph yep had his **** thrown in jail for breaking and entering he felt it necessary to go into my place for reasons that are unknown today i did not sue under the condition the hoa be dissolved ,well long story short i ended up sueing ,(i did not want to and gave options need less to say it blew wide open )they got dissolved and had to pay up the ying yang i felt justified and adolph got deported i have rarely heard any good things from these power trippin fools
Most people I would say who live in these HOA are liberals and need to be told how to live what to do and so on. hence the Nanny state.
Now me I own my home HOA free my neighbor pisses me off I go tell him about it.
HOA has good and bad bylaws, I live in area which governs with HOA. I must say I was issue a letter that I violate an bylaw by parking an 1 ton van in front my property. Let me be clear this van has no logo of any kind just plain white is not blocking anyone, never park in anybody else space, its maintain clean, gone by 8:00 am back at night after 7:00 pm. So who am I hurting? yes this is my work Van is what I do to make ends meet and pay the mortgage of this house. Am I to give up this job and try to look for another job in this economy..... I know, why don't I just quit, stay home file for WIC, food stamps, health care and tell HOA to pay my mortgage.....Time changes why not rules?
pink and purple, etc. Personalty I love the rules because I know they apply to everybody and I don't get pissed off when the guy next door brings home a big boat and parks it in front of my house.