If you’re looking to become a homeowner, it is highly likely that you will end up as part of a homeowner’s association. According to a recent study, Americans have a one in five chance of living in a house that's part of a HOA.
And more often than not, friction can arise from conflicts of interest between a HOA board of directors and a homeowner who just wants to exercise their rights to design their living space as they please. Whether it’s growing an outdoor garden or setting up a picket fence, a homeowner should have as much free rein over their own property as possible as long as they aren’t endangering others. If your HOA is getting in the way of that, keep in mind these tips to get around them.
Be familiar with the association’s bylaws
The most straightforward way to learn how to coexist with your local homeowner’s association is by getting to know their rules. This isn’t just to ensure that you follow each rule to the letter, but also so that you’ll be able to mark out rules that are unreasonable, arbitrary, or contradictory. If you find a suspect clause or provision, you can phone it in with the association admin to find out why they put it in place. If the reasons they give for those rules don’t quite hold up to you, you could use that as a basis for legal action later on. You may also dispute the existence of said laws, as well as raise other concerns by attending HOA board meetings.
Know when serious action is valid
When lobbying within the system fails, you may need to resort to more serious courses of action. This usually involves seeking external assistance, such as from a real estate law firm or a HOA management company. To find out whether you’re within your rights to enlist such help, check your HOA’s bylaws against state and federal housing laws. The Fair Housing Act is a particularly standout example.
In the US, all homeowners’ associations are obliged to build their rules around the Fair Housing Act or be liable to get sued for discriminating against members of their community. Legal action can be a monumental and messy affair, however. But fortunately, it may not be wholly necessary most of the time. Outside of gross violations of the law, simply hiring a management company to help you in dealing with difficult HOA board members can be enough.
Get more involved in HOA politics
If disputing the rules isn’t working and more serious courses of action are off the table, the next best thing may be to simply get more involved in your homeowner association’s politics. This will allow you to grow your voice within the association and let it be heard by the right people. If you band together with like-minded members of the community, you can also vote out an offending board member, or get voted into the board yourself to make changes from within.
The idea behind homeowners’ associations is to maintain a safe and orderly community for all of its members, but unfortunately, they are not created equal. Still, with a little bit of determination, you can iron out the flaws in the system yourself and be able to craft your home as you see fit, without inconveniences or unreasonable constraints.