Many people who live in housing developments are required to join homeowners associations. A homeowners association is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of any common areas, such as swimming pools, tennis courts and other recreational areas. They might also mow your lawn, shovel snow and keep your sidewalks in good repair. You pay HOA fees every month in order to contribute to this type of care. With the HOA fees come bylaws, which you are required to obey when you live in the housing development or association. Some of these bylaws are common sense. For example, you might be prohibited from painting your house a loud or bright color that reflects poorly on the rest of the neighborhood. There might be regulations about how you are expected to keep your lawn maintained, or how often you should trim shrubs and hedges. The HOA will provide you with a copy of the bylaws regularly so you can keep up with updated. Keep in mind that not all HOA bylaws are etched in stone. You might be able to talk the association into an exception if you can present your case well.
Many HOAs like to take their authority a little too seriously. Homeowners who live within the jurisdiction of the HOA do have to agree to live by the set of rules and regulations established for the common good, but it’s always possible to ask for an exception or explain why a rule needs to be bent or broken. Many HOAs will be concerned that if they allow one resident to break the rules, all the homeowners in the neighborhood will be lining up to receive special treatment. However, it’s worth a try. For example, if you want to place a sign in your front yard during election season, but signs are not allowed according to your HOA bylaws, talk to the association about a compromise. Maybe you will be permitted to post the sign for one week before the election. Alternatively, you could post a sign in one of the windows of your home instead of in the lawn. Most HOAs have a board, and if you can get one board member on your side, you’ll have a shot.
Talk to other residents as well. Perhaps you want to plant a tree in your front yard but the branches would hang over the street, causing the HOA to complain or try and prevent you from planting the tree. If you take your case to your neighbors and demonstrate how the tree will provide extra shade, which is beneficial to everyone in the summertime, you might have a shot. Showing up to an HOA meeting with a team of concerned neighbors who want more trees can position you to get what you want, regardless of what the bylaws say.
If there is something in your HOA bylaws that is causing a problem for you, approach the topic reasonably. Don’t act combative or confrontational. Ask the HOA what you need to do in order to appeal for an exception. Get support from other residents. While the bylaws are agreed upon by all of you, they are not necessarily inflexible and etched in stone.
This post was written for Schorr Law’s Los Angeles Real Estate Blog by Stephen K Hachey. Stephen is a real estate lawyer specializing in loan modifications, short sales, foreclosure and much more. He is also the owner of his own practice, the Law Offices of Stephen Hachey, PA. This article is for general informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a licensed attorney in your state of residence. For more information on Mr. Hachey’s services, please visit his website at hacheylawpa.com.