Homeowners typically have a love-hate relationship with their homeowners association. They love the HOA for keeping the neighborhood, pools, and parks looking impeccable, but don’t always like how it goes about enforcing the rules. That means homeowners sometimes deal with tough guidelines or face stiff fees for infractions.
“Some HOA rules can seem overbearing, but are required by state law—such as no glass or pets in the pool area,” says Kelly G. Richardson, a real estate agent, attorney, and co-founder of Richardson, Ober, DeNichilo.
Anyone who’s lived in an HOA knows the guidelines and covenants can be rigid but some are just downright strange. Here are some of the most outrageous rules that an HOA can—and has—enforced.
1. Cultivate your garden, but not too much
Roses are red, violets are blue, if you plant too many roses your HOA will sue.
An HOA in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, took legal action against a homeowner for planting too many rose bushes on his 4-acre property. The homeowner, Jeffrey DeMarco, had dreams of turning his estate into the world’s most extensive “fragrance garden” and planted 10,000 bushes.
The HOA sent him monthly fines, allowed him to argue his case in front of the association four times, threatened foreclosure, and ended up defeating him in court when the judge found that DeMarco violated the community’s architecture design rules. DeMarco had to pay the HOA’s $70,000 legal bill and lost his home to the bank.
2. Trash cans must be put away immediately after service
Most HOAs have rules against leaving trash cans on the curb on non-pickup days, but one Florida HOA took it a step further by removing the trash cans of 80 residents and dropping them off at a recycling plant. Their misdeed? Repeatedly leaving their trash cans out.
After numerous complaints from rules-abiding residents, the HOA warned in an email that any lingering cans would be removed.
“Often, when very specific rules exist, it is because neighbors complain to the board of directors about other neighbors and the board tries its best to find a compromise on rules that work for the entire community,” says Dawn M. Bauman, senior vice president of government and public affairs for the Community Associations Institute.
3. Only certain flags can be flown
An Ohio couple heard from their HOA after flying Pride, Black Lives Matter, transgender, and feminist flags outside their home over the three years they lived there.
The couple received a half-dozen letters from their HOA telling them to remove the flags from their front porch, then they were fined.
“The content of flags can be very controversial, and some residents simply prefer no flags, except the American flag, to avoid conflict within the community,” says Bauman. “Some communities, as a group of residents, choose to not allow any flags.”
4. No early Christmas displays
Holiday decorations can be an extremely contentious topic especially when it comes to how long—and how early—they can be displayed.
A family living in a Florida HOA began decorating their home on Nov. 6 but were told to remove their decorations or face a fine of $100 a day, up to $1,000. The homeowner had no idea he was in violation, but the HOA’s rules state that holiday decorations can’t go up until Thanksgiving Day.
The HOA’s attorney stated that the rules are in place to be followed, but said the board is open to discussing change. However, the homeowner said the HOA hadn’t budged on its decision.
5. No grandchildren in a retirement community
One HOA in a Clearwater, FL, retirement community proved that no good deed goes unpunished when it forced the grandparents of a 6-year-old girl to remove the child from their home.
Judie and Jimmy Stottler had taken their granddaughter in because her drug-addicted mother was ruled unfit. But their home, under the management of the Lakes Homeowners Association, was designated for 55-and-over residents, and children were allowed to live in the community for a maximum 60 days a year.
The Stottlers’ efforts to sell the home during a recession proved unsuccessful, and they were eventually sued by the HOA. But in 2012, after a five-year court case, a judge ruled that the granddaughter could stay in the home.
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