How Do I Get Around My HOA?
It’s a common question that many homeowners have, especially in a market where costs are high, and communication between homeowners and their HOA board can be limited. But when you look at the reasons why many ask, “How do I get around my HOA?” you’ll quickly find that the answer isn’t always straightforward.
Homeowners Associations exist primarily to provide rules and regulations that ensure the standards of a community are upheld. This means ensuring common areas like driveways or sidewalks are kept up, that exterior home designs adhere to a certain aesthetic standard, and noise levels stay within reasonable limits.
Yet many homeowners and community residents look for ways to get around their HOAs regulations to add features they desire to their homes, such as a backyard pool or a second-story addition. This is perfectly reasonable, but it’s vital to first understand the rules and regulations of your HOA before you attempt to get around them.
Get Familiar with Your HOA’s Governing Docs
One of the best ways to learn why your HOA has certain requirements is to read their governing documents. These can include rules, regulations, and articles of incorporation. Reading through these should familiarize you with what your HOA considers acceptable in terms of the community’s look and feel.
Start by getting very familiar with your HOA’s core governing documents – the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), bylaws, and rules/regulations. Review these documents closely to understand what architectural guidelines, noise and nuisance policies, pet restrictions, parking regulations, and other standards exist in your community.
The CC&Rs outline high-level use restrictions and guidelines for the neighborhood. The bylaws provide operational rules for the HOA board and governance procedures. The separate rules and regulations list policies for things like architectural changes, landscaping, parking, pets, noise, common areas, and more.
Together these documents dictate what changes to your property and behaviors in the community require advance HOA approval or compliance. Knowing the specific regulations in detail allows you to carefully evaluate potential workarounds.
Carefully studying this “HOA bible” gives you the foundational knowledge to understand exactly where conflicts exist between your desired alteration and the current rules. It also helps you formulate practical solutions or arguments for the board.
Consider Your Needs and How They Fit Existing Rules
Are you trying to get around your HOA because you want to add or remove elements to your home? Do you want to reduce your fees or make other improvements to the area?
The more you understand about how your needs fit into existing rules, the better prepared you are to negotiate an acceptable outcome. For example, if you want to add a deck to your home, look at the details of what type and size of structure is allowed. You’ll also want information on requirements for placements and materials used.
Does a back deck addition meet the size, style, and materials requirements? Is a workshop/studio allowed in your zoning area and per association rules? This helps determine if your plan conflicts with any established guidelines.
You may find that in your exploration of the guidelines, you can make adjustments to your plans that align more closely with established rules. This could help in getting approval for an addition or modification without the need for a variance.
Explore the Formal Approval Process
If your intended change violates current rules, don’t try secretive workarounds right away. Begin by exploring the formal approval process outlined in your HOA’s documents. This is one of the best ways to succeed in obtaining approval for your project.
Some HOAs use an architectural control committee to review plans and enforce their rules. This committee may have different levels of approval based on the scope of the project. Many allow exceptions or waivers to rules if owners complete an application process and the board approves. This lets you make your case directly to the HOA on why they should accommodate your request – and potentially grant approval to a project that may otherwise have been denied.
Show Up and Voice Your Opinion
If waiver applications are denied, take advantage of your rights as an HOA homeowner by showing up to board meetings and voicing your opinion during open comment periods.
Calmly but firmly explain why you believe the rules should be amended or how your alteration will not impact the community negatively. Having facts, project plans, and other homeowners’ support helps sway boards. Don’t underestimate the power of your words.
You can also leverage the opinions of other homeowners by building up support for your project or rallying them to express their own concerns about specific rules at HOA meetings. An organized group of owners stands a better chance of persuading the board that rule changes are needed and should be considered.
Check Out Your HOA Website to Learn All Your Options
Learning about your HOA’s rules and regulations, as well as all of the other resources that may be available to you, is key in deciding what you can and cannot do with your property. Visit their HOA website or check out the documents they have posted online for more information on how you can best approach amending the covenants and restrictions.
With the right process, you can move forward with your plans to make changes with confidence that you have done everything possible to get approval and stay in compliance. Knowing the rules of your HOA is one of the first steps for ensuring a successful outcome of your request.
Be sure to reach out to the HOA or an experienced professional if you have any questions or require advice. Doing your due diligence upfront can help avoid expensive and time-consuming complications down the road, so take advantage of all of the resources that are available to you before getting started on any project.