How far can an HOA go in it's covenants?

I live in Montgomery county Maryland, and we have a place called Montgomery Village. They are a group of HOAs that do not allow pickup trucks to be parked in driveway, parking spaces, or on streets owned by the HOA. There have been fights and bills that people have tried to get passed to allow trucks to park where people live. This area holds something like 40,000 homes so if all you own is a truck you can’t basically live there. Because of this HOA, one of the oldest in the county, many others, including my own, say no trucks.

On another board there have been people who say their HOA tries to fine them for haven an antenna on their house, something the FCC allows. I have also heard of places that do not allow motorcycles. My HOA also says that we must clean snow off of our sidewalks within 12 hours after the snow stops. The county gives us 24. Now since the snow stopped last night around 10 or so, and I’m at work from 7-4 there’s no way that I can clean off my sidewalk with in the time frame unless I do it at 5am. So far they haven’t said anything to me, but I have heard them say things to others.

Does this mean that if an HOA wanted they could tell someone what kind of car they could drive? Or what about a minimum blue book value so if my car isn’t worth $10,000 I have to get a new one? If they can tell me I can’t have a truck, even though in the state of Maryland, SUVs and the like are titled as trucks, what’s to keep them from saying you can’t have a Honda?

Pretty far:

and see,

But see,

Except they can’t prohibit the installation of TV antennas or satellite dishes. I do know they can say about looks. My question is though if they can actually tell you what type of car you can have in your driveway. For the last 40 years the Montgomery Village has prohibited the parking of trucks in the HOA, but no one has ever challenged them. I was wondering if the board started talking and said, well we don’t like Fords, no one’s allowed to have them. Or we really like BMWs so you have to own one or at least something worth X amount.

I’ve seen HOA’s that don’t allow vehicles more than 10 years old to be parked in public view.

Can you see the difference between a federal regulation that specifically:


and the situation you’ve just outlined, where we need to consider your personal vehicle preference, which is unsupported by regulation?

Why do you suppose the FCC found it necessary to pass this regulation?

What I’m getting at is that a federal regulation preempts state laws, including those that enforce HOA covenants. If anything the FCC regulation is the exception that proves the rule because the FCC had to make clear that it was preempting HOA rules. Yes they can be preempted, but otherwise they are usually enforced.

There might be some technical legal problems arising from the specific rules. You’d need to talk to a local attorney about that.

This won’t really specifically answer your question, but for my HOA (located in California so YMMV) any new rule must be proposed with a period of time for “discussion” and then voted on by all homeowners. I think that in order for a rule to actually be adopted, it must be approved by a certain percentage of the homeowners - I can’t recall right now whether it’s 50% or 2/3 or what.

So what I’m getting at is that it’s not necessarily just the board being jerks - if it were really that draconian of a rule, and homeowners had issue with it, they have the right to voice those issues and vote against the rule.

Again, it doesn’t address the legality of these rules, but I’m just pointing out that it’s not a given that a crappy rule will be able to get right by you if you disagree with it.

I’m not really worried that much since I don’t have any problems. I’m just trying to find out what they can really say. Around here the company that first builds the community gets to set the original rules. Since there’s a lot of development I was just wondering if they could put in some odd rules like no American made cars, or no men with long hair.

Typically, around here, they follow the Montgomery Village set which says no trucks. Since Montgomery Village is one of the cheaper places to live a lot of people who would have work trucks either can’t live there, or must park on the street,which they can’t do either. So either they have to pay more or commute here. I only wanted to take it further and say, nope only people with $50k BMWs can live here.

There’s a great X-Files episode where Scully and Mulder pretend to be married and move into this neighborhood that’s controlled by this evil neighborhood association (I think the leader is played by Ronny Cox.) They have this huge golem-like monster made of trash and dirt that does their bidding and kills people who put up lawn decorations or stuff that isn’t allowed.

Here is a discussion of enforcement of condo rules in Maryland:

*Ridgely Condo. Ass'n v. Smyrnioudis* 105 Md. App. 404, 660 A.2d 942, 1995 Md. App. LEXIS 121, June 28, 1995 (Emphasis added.)

A similar standard probably applies to newly adopted HOA rules.

We used to live on a corner lot and there was a 30 foot easement that belonged to the HOA along the side street. There were also about 10 big old pine trees planted in the easement. One year they all died, and within about a month these two people came up to our door to tell us that dead trees were against the rules, and we would need to cut them down. It was with great joy that I got to say I hated them too, unfortunately they didn’t belong to me, but rather the HOA. They were gone in about a week, at no expense to me.

Aren’t they just telling you that if you have a pick-up, you must park it in your garage?

Can you have overnight visitors who drive pickups? What if you throw a party and half of your guests show up in Ford 350’s?

I am assuming HOA = Homeowner’s Association.
Each state has it’s own set of laws governing such things and so any general statements are likely to be both right (sometimes) and wrong (sometimes). In general though ( :slight_smile: ), these rules which I call Covenants but go by lots of names, are civil contracts. When you bought your house, you agreed to a contract saying that you would abide by these rules. Didn’t see one? Well, too bad. They are (usually) on file at the courthouse and available to anyone interested in reading them. State law makes the connection that when you sign to buy a piece of property, you sign the agreements that go with that property. Whether you read them or not, they are contracts. Just like any other contract, they can say anything the parties want. In my limited experience, the negociation is limited to agree or don’t purchase the property. The HOA is often the enforcer, but not always the party to the contract. Around here (Louisiana), the parties to the contract are the owners of the properties covered by the contract (Phases of a subdivision in my experience). If you can get all your neighbors to change the rules, that can be (and has been) done. So if this civil contract you signed says you can’t park a truck in your driveway, that is the agreement you made. Again, around here the problem is that such contracts tend to become unenforceable unless consistently enforced. So HOAs feel they have to be picky on the rules (no $40K trucks but a $20K car is fine) lest they be found to have abandoned the contract and lose all ability to enforce it. As for things not in the contract, not unless you agree to it.

The CCR (Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions) are part of the title deed; the truck restriction is not a rule, it’s something that you agreed to when you bought the house. The FCC regulation is very unusual, because governments and cours are usually very reluctant to interfere in such things. I can see the FCC’s overriding policy interest in creating such a regulation; I can’t imagine any such interest on the part of any government in letting you park a truck.

The means by which changes are made to the CCR are also part of the deed; if that power is given to the board, then they have that power, period. When I bought a house, the CCR section was pretty long, but there was no HOA, only a procedure for creating one. When I moved 6 years later, there was still no HOA, although the neighborhood busybody was trying to start something.

Montgomery Village doesn’t prohibit trucks from entering the neighborhood, but they prohibit overnight parking. (I think they define that as being midnight to 6 AM, so a late-night party could be an issue.) There was a big article on Montgomery Village’s parking regulations in the Washington Post recently. The article will be available for free for a few more days.

I know of a homes association through a person at work, which had a rule saying it was a violation to have your garage door open any time between midnight and 5am. But that also had another rule that said no cars were allowed to be parked outside of any garage. So when my co-worker asked the board at a meeting what was to be done if he came home at 1:00am from a work trip, and wanted to open his garage door to park his car inside, he was told “if we catch you or someone reports you, you’ll be fined.” They refused to change the rules to allow brief opening because they started fighting over some other issue, then they refused to reconsider it at the next meeting because they had “already considered it.” Nice system - rule by decree, no fair hearing, no appeals.


A couple of HOA’s in the area have got into trouble for restricting or outright banning antennas and sat dishes. Hell, someone at work showed me their covenant that they just entered into this year which bans all outside antennas, in defiance of the FCC ruling. Sure they can try to fight the issue - but pity the poor sap who has to fork out thousands in legal fees, while the HOA will be defended by lawyers paid from their own dues.

(Aside)It always amazes me when “the smartest folks in the room” decide to sink their largest life investment into property which is subject to a group of petty tyrants that have almost dictatorial control over it, using the bullshit justification of “but, every subdivision has one!” (which of course isn’t true, but oh well).

We have a local legislative proposal right now to block HOAs from banning solar panels.

Here’s some info on that proposal

There is also the federal Fair Housing Act, which would presumably prevent discrimination based on race, age, or other protected characteristics. For example, those “active adult” communities that have restrictions against children need to meet certain criteria to show they are genuinely targeted for senior citizens.