If you live within a community governed by a homeowners association, or are thinking of moving into one, you have probably heard countless horror stories about the edicts put into place that control the day-to-day lives of the residents within.  While the vast majority of these stories contain a healthy dose of exaggeration and creative liberty, they may still leave one asking, “Can they really do that?”  Well, Can they?

Pick your Paint?

Most professionals suggest that you paint the exterior of your home every seven to ten years.  If you are staring at the calendar and realizing that you are nearling this mark, you may want to cool your jets before you get too excited about the world of color with which you can cover your home.  Many communities will, at very least, require that an appointed committee approve the colors that you have chosen to paint the exterior of your home.  Some will even go so far as to pre-approve a number of specific color combinations that can be used and then homeowners will be required to select one when it comes time to pick up the paintbrushes.  And while you might feel a bit stifled, creatively when encountering this process, there is an upside.  You may very well have neighbors who would love nothing more than to paint their home a combination of neon shades the likes of which could (and would) keep you up at night.  These rules help to prevent exactly that.  

Dictate Holiday Cheer?

Whether you’re wanting to scare the snot out of the neighborhood kids by sprinkling your yard with plastic body parts for Halloween, or feel the compulsion to show off your inner Clark Griswald with a christmas lighting display that can be seen from space, the fact of the matter remains the same: your HOA will, more than likely, have parameters set in place in regards to your enthusiasm and cheer.  Typically, the HOA will have rules surrounding exactly when you can put up, and when you must take down any festive folderol.  In most cases, you are looking at a few weeks in either direction of said holiday.  In addition to the timeline, your HOA will often include language in their governing documents that outline exactly what you can and cannot display during the various holiday seasons.  These rules will generally center around the amount of noise and light produced by your display(s).  But do not fret, holiday heroes, very few associations ban decorations altogether (something that you should surely look into before moving in, if decorative displays are your jam) so you can rest easy, knowing that you’ll be able to put your inflatable Easter Bunny to good use.

Call Off the Game

Still waiting for that NBA scout to come around and witness your totally awesome three-point shot?  Well, depending on your HOA, you may have a more difficult time finding time to practice around your home.  While equipment like basketball hoops and soccer goals might seem pretty benign, many associations have rules surrounding their presence and placement. In some communities, hoops must not be attached to the house itself (the type on wheels).  Other neighborhoods require that hoops be affixed to the structure of the home or garage.  Still, others take a pass (get it?) on hoops all together.  As for nets used in lacrosse and soccer, you will likely have to have them placed out of view from the street (in a back, or side yard, for example).  So, before you quit your day job and devote all of your free time to upping your game, take a minute to look at your community’s documents.

Make You Pay Up?

Here is the question most asked by disgruntled home owners in planned communities.  Let’s say that you find yourself the recipient of a fine from your HOA, for whatever reason.  Let’s also say that you do not believe that your infraction merits said fine and, in response, refuse to pay.  Can the HOA really make you pony up the dough?  Short answer: yes, if you want to stay living within your home, that is.  Failure to pay fees, or even HOA dues for that matter, can result in even more fees, court costs, and even a lien on your home.  So what should you do?  Well, do your best to be a good neighbor and follow the rules.  If you break a rule, whether it be by accident or on purpose, speak to members of the HOA board to get a better understanding and see if there is a solution to be found.  And, of course, pay up.