I have heard from so many people for years that they think homeowners associations or condo rules, or both, are the absolute pits. And they would never live in a place that had them.
Of course, I have no experience with them, but I would like to hear some real experiences people have had with those rules. Also, maybe you could tell about a rule that that you know of is over-the-top difficult to live with. Or maybe a rule or set of rules that you personally learned about that prevented you from buying a home or condo.
Try to keep your response to something you know for certain, for real, absolutely true horror stories or just pain-in-the-butt harassment by condo or association boards using “rules.”
Not really what you’re looking for, but I am on my fourth property with an HOA and have never had an issue with over-the-top rules or had any request requiring HOA approval denied (architectural changes, temporary location of dumpster in the street, etc.).
About the closest I can come is that in out previous HOA a neighbor wanted a higher backyard fence than the rules allowed. She got elected to the HOA board, got her waiver approved, then did not run again. Pretty minor.
The last place we lived in FL had an HOA. The neighborhood was a single road - maybe 50 houses if that many - and the most expensive place was less than $150K, so not a high end community. It was also a brand new neighborhood - none of the houses were over 2 years old when the builder turned things over to the board.
But the association was manned by people with nothing better to do than pick nits. They did property inspections at some unknown frequency coming up with reasons to fine residents. They tried to nail us for “noxious weeds” in our lawn. Yes, we had weeds, but they were not noxious by any definition. And the neighborhood backed up to protected wetlands - so poison weed sprays were out, and whatever grew back there could creep into all adjacent yards.
However, these folks considered anything that wasn’t grass to be a noxious weed. The only thing that saved us from a fine was that we had contracted with a service to treat our lawn for weeds. And shortly thereafter, we sold the place and left the state.
The stupidest rule was that work vehicles weren’t allowed to be visible on the street - you had to either park in the garage or cover up any signage on the vehicle. And I’m not talking about doing business in the neighborhood from a truck. The guy across the street worked for a company that repaired industrial cranes and he had a company van. When he came home from work, he had to cover his van with white magnetic panels to hide the name of his employer.
C’mon - this was a neighborhood of working folks! It wasn’t a high-end gated community. I was never so glad to move in my life. So when we moved where we are now, we told our realtor we absolutely refused to live in an HOA neighborhood. Life is so much more pleasant.
One of the major screening criteria during our recent home search was no homeowners association.
I could make a fairly long list of improvements we’ve made in just the past year that would’ve put us in jeopardy from your average HOA, starting with garage doors. We inherited a garage built without them, as part of a structure that includes an upstairs apartment. Just installing and using the doors could’ve been problematic beyond selecting the proper design and color to conform with the neighbors. One HOA has required all residents to leave their garage doors open between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (the HOA board worried that people might otherwise rent their garages out to undesirables to live in).
Beyond home improvements and the potential for having them denied or restricted by HOA mini-bureaucrats, the major sticking point is that I am an avid gardener. Most HOAs have rules preventing a wide variety of gardening activities. Fruit trees in the yard? Too messy. Vegetable gardens? Certainly not in the front yard and sometimes not allowed anywhere on the property. Xeriscaping to conserve water*, wildflower meadows, or wildlife-friendly plantings? You’ve got to be kidding. The most constipated HOAs have tightly restricted lists of acceptable things to plant. Otherwise, the uniformity of the neighborhood would be compromised and we can’t have that.
The following article is provides an overview of the insanity of HOA gardening rules.**
Those who value the comforting aspects of uniformity over individual freedoms and worry about property values suffering because the guy down the street parks his work vehicle in the driveway feel differently about HOAs, and they are welcome to them.
*there seems to be a nice little industry going for lawyers in Florida who initiate or defend against lawsuits based on homeowners trying to exercise their rights under state law to “Florida-friendly landscaping”, which among other things aims to conserve water in the face of recurrent droughts (lawns are uniform but guzzle water, native Florida plants generally get along with far less).
**my garden has some similarity with the pictured one, including big perennial banana plants which are (gasp) visible from the street. Other facets of my garden that would not get past most HOAs include fruit tree plantings, mulching of beds and wrapping of certain other plants/trees for winter protection.
***my immediate neighborhood, while attractively landscaped, definitely has aspects that would turn the average HOA board green (and not in a good way). They’d probably send an enforcer out with a clipboard to advise neighboring farmers to keep their cows from lowing, and above all to ensure better animal hygiene (sometimes on warm summer nights when cows are clustered near the fence lines, a bovine aroma wafts gently over the area).
I lived in a well-to-do mega HOA for ~10 years. I had no complaints about them at all. They bugged me exactly zero times.
I now live in a condo building in FL. This is a pair of mid-rise buildings, not detached duplexes or whatever. Until recently I was the condo association president for several years and am still on the board. IME our rules amount to “Keep your elbows in because we all live 10 feet apart.”
The biggest compliance problem we have is people hiring unlicensed contractors and skipping building permits to save 20-ish% on their repairs and rehabs. Which is a felony in FL, invalidates their insurance, and endangers their neighbors.
Are there crazy power-mad micromanagers in COAs / HOAs? Sure. Are there jerks who refuse to admit their actions inconvenience and harm their neighbors and who’d be better off living on a ranchette in the country? Sure.
Density has a quality all it’s own. As I put it at a meeting recently:
If everyone leaves their car parked in front of the elevator lobby just once a year, then every single day of the year there’ll be a car parked there blocking both car and pedestrian traffic. So even once a year is one time too many for each of us.
I ran into the same problem with our HOA. I wanted it higher for privacy from the street and other houses. Amazingly I discovered a drainage problem that necessitated raising that portion of my yard (under the fence) about 1-2 feet. Of course, such a serious task was immediately approved, and after several dumptrucks and a lot of railroad ties, my fence was magically at the height I wanted. Talk about luck!
I read the entire deed restrictions in our neighborhood, and only half-ton pickups are allowed. F-250’s and above must fit in the garage (not likely) or be parked around the driveway* and invisible. Signage isn’t mentioned at all, just the truck size.
However, this is an unenforced rule. Our HOA is unique in that membership is voluntary although the rules apply to all. Occasionally the enforcement committee ends up with strutting little Napoleons who try maximum enforcement, and the HOA quickly finds itself unfunded as most refuse to join the next year. I think it’s an excellent way to balance the opposing forces.
*Wraparound driveways are required. All garages must face the rear or the side, no forward facing garage doors.
Wow - I had friends whose HOA was exactly the opposite. If you weren’t actively moving the vehicle in or out of the garage or actually working in the garage, it had to stay closed.
The community where my inlaws live doesn’t have a rule about garage doors, but there have been multiple thefts of items from the garages because people left them open and unattended in the middle of the day. Drive-by opportunists grabbed mowers and other power tools, bikes, and pretty much anything you could grab and toss into a pickup in a matter of seconds.
We lived in an HOA community of single family homes in the Atlanta suburbs for four years (about 20-25 years ago). Everything was fine for the first three years and then there was turnover on the board and the interpretation of rules became onerous. Ordinary pickup trucks were defined as “work vehicles” and couldn’t be parked on the driveway. There were people walking around measuring grass height with a ruler and anything over 4” was given a warning, then a fine. Open garage doors led to citations. Vegetable gardens were violations of the “no agricultural use” rule. Having a home office was considered “running a business out of the home”. Telecommuting wasn’t well understood back then.
In the space of two or three months 50 out of ~200 homeowners had some kind of fines assessed or demand that something be changed. Most of the people getting fined were Asian. Lawsuits started sprouting like weeds. HOA terms made the plaintiffs responsible for the HOA legal fees.
Fortunately we moved due to a job change. This was before social media so we lost contact with he old neighbors.
This was a relatively new neighborhood built four years before we moved in. Solid middle class to upper middle class area. Houses in the $250k-$300k range. Nice tennis courts, swimming pool, playground, clubhouse.
13 years after we moved out, we were visiting Atlanta and went back to show our kid our first house.
The surrounding neighborhoods of similar vintage looked pristine, and many older tracts had been replaced by McMansions. Our old neighborhood was trashed. Tennis courts abandoned, swimming pool filled in with concrete. Many houses looked decrepit, yards overgrown. Private roads are in disrepair.
From the HOA website it looks like the battles have continued for pretty much 20 years. They are trying to turn over the roads to the city. We’ve reconnected with some of our neighbors but they’ve all moved out. Neighborhood has gone from white collar professional to working class. The HOA has trouble collecting dues and enforcing anything.
While houses in other neighborhoods have doubled in value in 20+ years since we bought, houses in this neighborhood have barely appreciated at all. Our old house sold in 2018 for less than we sold it for 15 years earlier.
My sister ran into problems with her condo association in Virginia Beach for having an American flag on display. For those of you unfamiliar with Virginia Beach, the place is crawling with both active duty and former members of the Air Force, Navy, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard and her condo reflected those demographics. Someone at the association got a bug up their butt about the flags and letters were soon sent telling residents to remove them. You ever try telling a bunch of military people they couldn’t have their flag on display? The association eventually backed down.
My first post on the SDMB was on this basic topic. I’d like to point to it because – even though it doesn’t directly and entirely stay focused on the OP – it raises points that should, IMHO, generally be included in this sort of conversation:
I’ve owned several homes in my lifetime. My one rule when house hunting was no HOAs. I’ve never had a problem with a HOA because I’ve avoided contact with them. If I want to paint my house a certain color, or skip mowing my grass this week, or work on my car in my driveway, I don’t want someone telling me I can’t.
Size of the HOA seems to matter. The three I have lived in have all been quite large (smallest was 250 homes, I think the current one is well over a thousand. All three had day-to-day operations run by outside professional staff (i.e., not homeowners). I can see where a smaller HOA with homeowners running everything can lead to pocket Napoleons taking over.
That said, I am perfectly willing to limit myself to approved color schemes and plantings. My current HOA has a dozen pre-approved color palettes but I know several neighbors who wanted something different and had no problem getting approval. I also know that I don’t have to worry about a neighbor painting his house bright green with purple polka dots…
For the most part I haven’t had any problems with my current HOA but we did get a letter a few months ago that there was “mess” visible through the windows of my garage. For what it’s worth, I don’t even know what they were talking about but I even if my garage was messy, I felt like an official notification about a mess INSIDE my property was totally inappropriate. So I just ignored it and I never heard anything more.
I haven’t had any problems with our current HOA for the past 3 years but it seems the retirees on our neighborhood facebook page always, always find something to nitpick about. “Compromise” and “consensus rules” just doesn’t register with these people. Our HOA does lawncare and snow removal so of course some think “they cut the grass too short”. Some think “they let it get too long. They shouldn’t cut it when it’s wet. They should salt our driveways too. No, salt hurts our doggies feet. They should use dog safe salt then, No it kills the grass.” On and on it goes.
And of course everybody wants customized top notch service and are ready to scream “change contractors!” but they all complain about any mention of a price increase.
I went to one meeting when we first moved in (big mistake) as it turned out to be a 2 hour privileged white people bitch and moan session. Never again.
So my problem with HOAs really hasn’t been the HOAs themselves but more the residents of the HOA that really don’t understand the concept.
In my case, the HOA had mailed a bill with a due date so close the mailing date, that it was impossible to comply with.
That was an HOA for my condo. I thought their rules were reasonable. Similar to the type of stuff @LSLGuy discusses. Their biggest problem was incompetence. At the time it was a self-managed HOA. So it ended up with things like employees of the HOA also being board members of the HOA, and hiring friends and stuff.
In one instance, an owner had a fire in his unit. There was minimal structure damage, but he didn’t have insurance (contrary to HOA rules). The HOA manager, who was also on the board, felt bad for him, so the HOA paid for the damage to his property.
I don’t think there was anything other than maybe minor corruption, but mostly just very poor management, like delaying maintenance, failing to save for known upcoming maintenance, and such. That caused multiple expensive assessments, and general disrepair of community property.
After 40 years or so of that, the HOA hired a management company, and things have been so much better since. They setup a plan to catch up on all of the delayed maintenance, and have executed it, all with no special assessments.