Why do many neighborhoods and subdivisions have HOAs (Home Owner Associations)? I believe it evolved from homeowners wanting more control over the maintenance and appearance of their neighborhoods. Without an HOA in place, there are no rules that homeowners have to comply with. Fred next door can have his boat and trailer sitting in his drive way or Sherri next to him can keep her lawn overgrown since she has no interest in mowing or Mike down the street can put up a 12ft chain link fence to keep his 5 dogs contained…no problem because there are no neighborhood restrictions….no HOA. One benefit of HOAs is that your home value will most likely be higher than homes that aren’t under an HOA. The properties have to be maintained per the covenants and restrictions of the HOA. So you would think that the exteriors of these properties and the rules that govern, help to keep and beautify the neighborhood. Many people would rather not have that monthly or annual payment though. Some areas can see HOA fees as high as $350/month and an annual $1200 fee!  When I owned a home out of state, I paid a $260/month HOA but that included weekly mowing, weeding, fertilizing and seasonal clean up…it also included snow plowing and snow removal of the driveway and walks. For me it was well worth the monthly fee!

When does an HOA get TOO restrictive? Here are some examples that I have found in some HOA covenants:

Restricting the number of flowering bushes in your yard. A man was fined for having too many rose bushes!

Abiding by the rule that your home’s exterior has to match the neighborhood’s plan. After a plane crashed into the Sanford, Florida, home of Joe Woodard, killing his wife, Janise, and their infant son, he decided to rebuild a new home on the same lot. But his reconstruction came to a screeching halt when his HOA informed him that his new home was not sitting acceptably on his lot and the shingles failed to achieve a perfect shingle match with the neighbors’ homes!

Pets have to be carried through the condominium lobby. After an elderly woman who walks with a cane, was fined $25 every time she failed to carry her cocker spaniel through the lobby of her Long Beach, California condominium, which stipulates that pets’ feet shall never touch the floor of the lobby. “There are just too many things going on in the lobby,” said the building’s property manager. “The dog might jump on someone or go to the bathroom.” After racking up hundreds of dollars in fines, the woman was forced to move.

Abiding by the lawn covenants. One man who actually lives in a James Island community was forced to have his beautiful thick luscious lawn removed because the grass did not conform with the type of grass that each property has. He wanted a nicer type of grass and he painstakinly planted and tended to it after removing the standard grass that the builders’ put down on each property. It was sad to see that!!

I actually heard of a woman who sits on the HOA board step onto the front porch of a neighbors’ home and remove a dead potted plant!!

So, thou shalt not violate HOA covenants and restrictions! Your other option is to find a neighborhood without an HOA and hope for the best!!