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Renovating Your Home in an HOA: What You Can and Can't Do


[Updated: Aug 22, 2020] Jan 04, 2020 by Liz Brumer
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If you live in a Homeowners Association (HOA), diving into a renovation project may be more involved than you think. Many homeowners are aware that HOAs require approval for exterior renovations to ensure compliance with the community's rules and regulations, but the fact that they may require approval for certain interior renovations as well can come as a surprise.

If you want to tackle a home renovation but live in an HOA, learn what you can and can't do and how to deal with renovating a property with an HOA.

What is an HOA?

An HOA is a governing party that manages a residential community, run by an elected board of directors. Monthly, quarterly, or annual fees are paid to the HOA to manage the day-to-day operations of the community, establish and enforce rules and regulations, and maintain shared areas like a pool, gym, or playground. The goal of the HOA is to improve property values by holding each homeowner to the same set of standards as outlined in the rules and regulations. Because of this, there may be certain color, height, and design restrictions on what can be done to a property's interior or exterior.

What renovation projects need approval from an HOA?

HOAs require approval for any exterior renovations, such as adding a fence, painting the exterior of your home, or even changing your front door. But your HOA may require seeking approval for certain interior renovations as well.

HOA approval usually required HOA approval usually not required
• Rewiring or adding electrical.
• Anything structural, like removing interior or exterior walls, moving plumbing, or changing or adding rooms, including major bathroom or kitchen renovations.
• Exterior changes like a new roof, exterior paint or landscaping, a new front door, trim, or gutters, or other exterior features.
• Flooring.
• Interior paint or wallpaper.
• Light fixtures, including switches and outlets.
• Sink, shower, and bath fixtures.
• Interior trim, like baseboards or crown molding.
• Kitchen appliances, counters, or sinks.
• Landscaping in your fenced backyard (as long as it will not be seen above the fence line).

Most HOA communities will require the work to be completed by a licensed professional with all required permits being pulled prior to work commencing and being closed upon completion of the work. The HOA will also inspect the renovation upon completion to ensure it meets their standard of quality and does in fact comply with the rules and regulations of the community.

What happens if I don't get approval from my HOA?

If you don't seek approval for a renovation or home improvement before commencing, the HOA may force you to stop the work in progress or redo it completely if it's been completed -- sometimes even if the project does comply with the HOA's rules and regulations. To avoid excessive time, cost, and headaches, you should always seek approval before starting any projects, minor or major.

How to get HOA approval for a renovation

Each HOA community has slight differences in their renovation approval process. Contact your HOA's board of directors to find out the process for requesting approval for a change to the interior or exterior of your property.

A common practice is a project proposal form that homeowners can complete, providing details about the project, timeline for work to be completed, professional conducting the work, and pictures of the proposed project. The HOA will use this information to either approve or deny the project and may even conditionally approve it, giving certain restrictions such as color choices or height restrictions. Once formally approved, work can begin.

In summary

Before you start a project, check your HOA's covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) to see what specific approvals are required for renovation projects inside and outside of your home. If you start a project without doing this, you run the risk of having to stop or redo the project altogether.

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