When we think about living in a community governed by a homeowner’s association, we typically think about the impact on homeowners, but we rarely think of how the children living in the community can be impacted.  How can some of the rules and regulations found in your community’s governing documents affect the youngest members of the neighborhood?

Play houses

Should you wish to bless your lucky youngster with a dream house, just their size, you’ll need to be sure that you take some careful time researching your community’s CC&Rs first.  In most HOA communities, playhouses fall under the category of outbuildings, making their dimensions, placement, materials and color pallet very specific, if they are allowed at all.  

In many cases, you’ll have to submit a proposal for your project to your association’s architectural review committee, outlining the specifics of your structure and receive approval before you begin.  All of this can take quite a while, so take this into consideration while planning.  If you want to have the mini-mansion ready for your progeny when school lets out for the summer, you'll want to begin your research and paperwork a few months in advance.  

Hoops

Hopeful that you might have the next Michael Jordan on your hands?  Perhaps you just want to give your kids something that they can do outside, away from you?  While a simple basketball hoop seems pretty benign, some associations have very strict rules in regards to their presence.  In some communities, hoops are only permitted if they are not attached to the structure of the home in any way, and can easily be moved (think a heavy base on wheels).  In other communities, hoops are only allowed if they are securely affixed to the house or garage.  Still some communities bar basketball hoops all together.  If your association allows hoops, you’ll need to be sure that you follow guidelines surrounding placement, visibility from the street and how it can/cannot be affixed.  

Pools

After the sweeping closures of neighborhood pools and community centers last summer, frazzled parents rushed to the big box stores to provide their progeny with the summertime staple they so craved.  Sales of plastic and inflatable pools soared through the roof and many retailers, both online and brick and mortar, found their stock sold out for a significant portion of the summer.  However, among the lucky few who were able to attain the aquatic award, some families found themselves in hot (okay, probably tepid) water.

According to a local news outlet, when the Taylor family, of Fishers Indiana, purchased an inflatable pool for their twelve-year old daughter in the summer of 2020, they were quick to check their community’s governing documents to be sure that they were in compliance.  Their documents stated that inflatable pools, that did not require a filter and were no taller than 2 feet, were allowed to be placed in the backyards of homes within their neighborhood, without being subject to HOA approval.  However, days after setting up the pool, they received a letter from their management company stating that they are not in compliance.  The HOA argued that the model pool the family had purchased could be inflated beyond the two-foot limit, and that even though they currently had it inflated so that it stood under the two foot mark, it was still against community rules.  The family argued that they were following the rule as it was written, and that they were, indeed, in complete compliance.  In the end, both sides ended up having to hire attorneys to handle the matter, which stretched long into the summer.

Swing Sets and Play Structures

A key element to keep in mind when contemplating play equipment is the permanence of the structure.  If it can easily be picked up and moved around, like a small plastic slide or a saucer swing with a base, then you are probably able to keep it in your yard, without getting the approval from your HOA (although you should still check).  However, if the structure that you are envisioning is a bit more beefy, and requires more of a permanent residence, then you will likely need to submit a request to your association, much like you would if you were building a deck or adding a shed.  

If your association does allow you to build your play paradise, you will still likely have some limitations regarding size and placement, so be sure that you do your due diligence before you make any promises to your anxious kiddies.  It would surely be a shame to present your eager offspring with the playground of their dreams, only to have to remove it in front of their sad little eyes soon after due to a lack of compliance.