For the Love of Cars

From the Model T of yesteryear, to the Teslas driving themselves down our highways today, we have engaged in a long and storied love affair with our cars.  One of the biggest purchases one will make, after a house (of course) is a car.  With the fervor with which we love our vehicles, it may come as no surprise that some of the most divisive issues, able to drive a wedge between a homeowner’s association and the residents of a community, are those that apply to how and where owners can park their motorized darlings.  

How Many and Where

To be clear, the HOA cannot limit how many cars you own, but they can (in many cases) limit the number of vehicles that you are able to park on your property.  Most associations will have rules regarding exactly where homeowners can park their vehicles, and these will vary greatly, depending on the type of community in which you reside.  Apartment, condomunimum or townhome communities may have limited parking, so it is a common practice for owners to be assigned a limited number of spaces.  This is typically done by registering cars with the association and distribution of parking passes.  While this ensures that you will never be without a spot (so long as everyone follows the rules), homeowners can find themselves in a potentially tricky situation depending on how many vehicles they own, or when they have guests that need to park.  

In a community made up of stand-alone single family homes, the association may say that residents cannot park vehicles in front of any house except their own.  They may even decree that homeowners may only park cars in their driveway, disallowing street-parking altogether.  Some associations have even gone so far as to require residents to park their cars within garages only.  So, while you may have the keys for five different vehicles in your hot little hands, the ones that cannot fit within the confines of your garage will have to find residence elsewhere.  

Recreational Vehicles

Plan on camping your RV outside your home, or docking your boat in your driveway?  Your HOA may have you looking elsewhere.  Many associations will have language in place within the CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) that disallow homeowners from parking their recreational vehicles and boats outside of their property.  Proponents of these rules state the potential safety issues that these vehicles can cause.  The parking of large vehicles can encumber neighborhood streets, and/or block a clear view of the road for drivers, posing concerns for both residents and anyone else making their way through the community.  In addition to safety concerns, the association may prohibit the parking of these vehicles (whether on the street, driveway or side yard ) simply to protect the visual aesthetic of the neighborhood.  

Many associations will allow these vehicles to be parked on the property for a short time for the purpose of loading or repair, but that time can range from hours to a few days, depending on the association.  The specific time restraints should be clear within the CC&Rs of your community, but if they are unclear, or if you have questions or extenuating circumstances, it is best to contact the board in order to get clarification.  

In the early months of the pandemic, some HOAs bent their rules and allowed residents to park campers and RVs on their properties in order to provide a place for individuals to safely social distance or quarantine, away from their families.    

Commercial Vehicles

Commercial vehicles are typically defined as any vehicle that is intended to engage in commerce.  However, this definition is a bit broad, leaving many homeowners questioning exactly what is and is not allowed.  Adding to the confusion, different associations may, in their governing documents, have differing definitions of exactly what a commercial vehicle is.  That is to say, what is considered to be a commercial vehicle in one neighborhood, may not be in another.  

While they may have differing verbiage, the vast majority of associations will have a statement within their documents prohibiting commercial vehicles within their community.  Presumably, these rules were first put in place for very similar reasons as those implemented for recreational vehicles.  In the past, many commercial vehicles were large, obtrusive machines that could pose the same safety and aesthetic concerns.  However, today an unassuming sedan can be a commercial vehicle.  A minivan with a decal can be a commercial vehicle.  In short, there may be an extensive “gray area” where these vehicles are concerned.  A lot will depend on how recently an association’s governing documents have been written or updated.  A homeowner would be wise to carefully examine these documents and consult with the HOA board if these policies are unclear, or seem to be outdated.

Even if the documents of the association explicitly forbid the parking of all commercial vehicles, there are some situations in which the homeowner can apply for a variance which would, if granted, allow them to park a commercial vehicle within the community.