Here's What Happens if You Violate Your HOA Rules

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  • Some HOA rules can be restrictive, but violating them could have negative consequences.
  • Before you buy a home that's part of an HOA, make sure you understand exactly what you're signing up for.

The consequences can be quite unpleasant.

It's estimated that there are over 370,000 homeowners associations across the U.S., according to HOA-USA. And when you buy a home that's part of an HOA, you're liable for more than just a monthly mortgage payment. You're also required to pay HOA fees or dues to cover things like common area maintenance and the upkeep of shared amenities, like tennis courts and swimming pools. 

But it's not just HOA fees you have to worry about. You also have to make sure to follow the rules your HOA sets. And if you don't, the repercussions could be quite severe.

Common HOA rules you might break

The specifics of an HOA will hinge from one community to another. But it's common for HOAs to impose rules in the following contexts:

  • Parking: You may only have a single assigned spot, or there may be areas you can't leave your car in.
  • Landscaping: If you do your own landscaping, you may have to keep your grass or shrubs to a certain height.
  • Rentals: You may be barred from renting out your home to a tenant, either on a long-term or short-term basis.
  • Pets: You may be barred from owning a pet, or from owning certain breeds or animals of a certain size.
  • Business operations: You may be prohibited from running a business out of your home.
  • Noise: You may have to keep noise to a minimum starting at a certain hour of the night through a certain hour of the morning.

What if you break the rules?

Failing to follow the rules of your HOA could cost you. It's common for HOAs to impose monetary fines on property owners who violate rules, whether it's getting caught running a business in your home or failing to trim your grass on time. You might also be banned from accessing certain amenities until you either pay your fine or address the issue at hand -- for example, trim your grass if it's overgrown.

In some cases, your HOA might put a lien on your home if you don't pay your fines. That could make it very difficult or impossible to sell your home. Plus, your HOA may decide to file a lawsuit against you if you keep violating the rules your community has established, or if you don't pay your outstanding fines for violating the rules.

Know what you're signing up for

A big reason some home buyers might shy away from HOAs is that they can be notoriously restrictive. If you're going to buy a home that's part of an HOA, make sure you study the rules carefully before making an offer so you know what you're getting into. 

You may feel that certain HOA rules imposed within your housing community aren't reasonable. But if they were there to begin with, then you really only have yourself to blame for landing in that situation. 

And to be clear, you shouldn't be in a situation where your HOA rules negatively impact your quality of life. If you're spooked by the rules when you first learn about them, it's a sign you may want to buy a home in a different HOA -- or avoid an HOA altogether.

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