It may annoy your HOA, but there are several rules that they cannot legally enforce due to the laws that have been put in place to protect your rights as a homeowner.
The HOA (Homeowner’s Association) is an organization that is responsible for creating and enforcing rules that apply to all homeowners within a community, subdivision, or building complex. These rules are supposed to be in place for the good of all the residents in the HOA, but some seem rather unnecessary and restricting.
1. Stop Displaying Religious Symbols
HOAs are not legally allowed to discriminate against homeowners based on their religious beliefs. Any of the HOA rules that single out a specific religion are protected against by the Fair Housing Act.
This means that the HOA cannot permit one homeowner to display religious symbols but deny a homeowner belonging to a different religion the right to display religious symbols.
In fact, HOAs are not legally allowed to prohibit you from displaying religious symbols—period.
If the HOA tries to fine you for displaying religious symbols and you take them to court, you are likely to win.
2. No Foreign Nationals
The Fair Housing Act prohibits any discrimination based on nationality or country of origin.
Municipal governments that have participated in discrimination by attempting to reduce the number of individuals living in a specific area because of their nationality have had legal action taken against them by The Justice Department.
For instance, the Hispanic population has been growing rapidly within the United States. Some HOAs have tried to reduce or limit the number of Hispanic families living within a certain community and have been reprimanded by the Department of Justice for doing so because such acts are in direct violation of the Fair Housing Act.
3. Only Married Couples/Traditional Families
The HOA cannot deny housing to individuals based on their marital status or sexual orientation. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development enforces an equal access rule that prohibits HOAs ensured by the Fair Housing Act from discriminating against homeowners based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community, single mothers or fathers, and unmarried couples are all granted equal access to housing under this law. If you feel you have been discriminated against by your HOA based on your marital status or sexual orientation, you can take action by filing a complaint with the HUD (Housing and Urban Development).
4. Ramps Cannot Be Installed
By law, the HOA must allow homeowners living with a disability to make modifications to their homes if necessary.
For example, it is illegal for the HOA to deny disabled homeowners the right to install a ramp because it can be vital for accessibility purposes.
As long as the ramp meets building code requirements, abides by safety guidelines, and does not inhibit the movement of other residents in the area, then the HOA cannot stop you from adding a ramp to your property if you need it to get in or out of your home.
The HOA may require the homeowner to provide documentation of their building plans and may make them agree to return the property to its original state by removing the modifications if they decide to move or depart from the home.
5. Take Down Your Satellite Dish
The HOA cannot inhibit you from installing a satellite dish on your roof because these devices are protected by the FCC.
With a few exceptions (check your state laws), the FCC protects homeowners’ rights to utilize an antenna to receive video or wireless signals from a satellite dish, radio signals, and television broadcasts.
Dish antennas are protected by these rules as long as they are one meter or less in diameter. Although, in Alaska, any size dish antenna is permitted by law.
However, antennas used to transmit signals among multiple locations, for AM/FM radio, amateur radio, or digital audio radio services are not protected by these rules.
6. Stop Hanging Your Washing Outside
Many HOAs try to ban homeowners from hanging their clothes to dry outside after they have been washed because they dislike the way it looks in the yard or on balconies.
However, hanging clothes outside to dry is beneficial to the environment and can save you a lot of extra money. Additionally, drying your clothes outside rather than in a dryer reduces damage to the materials and helps them last longer.
Because of this, many states protect homeowners’ rights to hang their clothing outside to dry. Unfortunately, not all states do, so be sure to check your state’s laws regarding whether or not air-drying your clothes outside is protected by law.
7. Do Not Install a Solar Energy System
The HOA may try to ban homeowners from installing a solar energy system due to the way they make the property look. There are concerns that the installation of a solar energy system negatively alters the character of a community or that it will decrease the value of the property.
There are many states that protect your right as a homeowner to install a solar energy system because solar energy systems are an effective way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint by utilizing the sun’s energy.
Thus, solar energy systems cannot be denied by the HOA in many states due to Solar Access Rights that have been put in place.
However, it is important to note that the HOA typically reserves the right to determine where solar panels are allowed to be installed on the property.
8. Uproot Native Plants
There are a few states that have laws protecting native plants because many of these plants are facing species endangerment or extinction. Under these laws, the HOA cannot force any homeowner to uproot a native plant for any reason.
Such native plants are vital to our survival, ecosystems, and wildlife habitats, which is why some states have implemented laws to protect them. The disappearance of these native plants could be detrimental to the environment.
Because laws vary depending on which state you live in, you will need to do some research and familiarize yourself with native plants that are protected by law in your state.
9. No Displays of Political Affiliations At All
Citizens of the United States of America have a right to display their political beliefs and affiliations on their property. However, some HOAs have specific rules regarding when homeowners are allowed to display politically affiliated items.
During the voting season, there is typically a period of time when HOAs will (and, in some cases, should) allow homeowners to display political propaganda. The HOA also has some degree of control regarding the location and manner of your political display. However, total prohibition is not always permitted by law.
For more information, check your HOA’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions to determine when you are permitted to display political beliefs on your property.
10. You Cannot Own a Firearm
The HOA is not permitted to create unnecessary rules that infringe upon homeowner’s constitutional rights. Unless there is a rational justification to create a rule that interferes with homeowners’ rights awarded to them as a US citizen, their creation of the rule would be in violation of the law.
Therefore, your right to bear arms is protected by the constitution and cannot be taken away by the HOA.
Although the HOA can enforce rules regarding the use of the gun itself if issues arise within the community, they cannot ban residents from owning a gun or keeping it within their own homes.
11. HOA Fines Are Incontestable
HOA fines are not incontestable, and you can take the HOA to civil court.
Unfortunately, taking your case against the HOA to court can be pricey even if you win. However, you can hire a lawyer who will help you decipher your state’s laws to determine if you would have a strong case against the HOA should you choose to move forward.
Before appealing a fine from the HOA is it important to carefully read and research the regulations enforced by your HOA. It is also necessary to research your HOA’s guidelines to develop an understanding of the rights you are entitled to as a homeowner.
If you have reason to appeal your fine, the next step is to contact your HOA and hire a lawyer to help you prepare your appeal case.
12. Rules That Were Not Passed Correctly
The HOA cannot enforce rules that were not passed following the correct procedure.
The Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) of the HOA outline the appropriate procedure required to be followed when a new rule is passed.
It is not uncommon or unfair for the HOA to add or change a rule. However, the HOA needs to follow the procedure outlined in the CC&Rs in order to do so lawfully. If the HOA does not follow this procedure, the rule cannot be enforced.
For example, a common rule is that the HOA has to inform the homeowners of a potential new rule before it takes effect. If they neglect to tell you and then you violate the rule, they cannot enforce it as you never knew that it existed.
13. Selectively Enforced Rules
The HOA cannot selectively enforce rules. The HOA is required to enforce its rules in a manner that is fair and consistent. If the HOA has a rule in place, it needs to apply to everyone residing in the community.
The HOA is not allowed to enforce a rule upon one homeowner if they do not apply the same rule to other homeowners in the community. This type of situation is often indicative of a more serious issue, like discrimination or bias.
For example, the HOA cannot ban you from displaying Christmas lights on your property if they permit other homeowners in the community to display lights on their property. Or, to incorporate a previously mentioned unenforceable rule, the HOA cannot allow one political group to display their signs, but not another political group.
14. Foreclosure on Servicemember Property
The SCRA protects active military members with debt issues. The SCRA requires the HOA to use judicial foreclosures as opposed to non-judicial foreclosures.
A judicial foreclosure requires the HOA to file a lawsuit and take the case to court in order for a home to be foreclosed. In contrast, a non-judicial foreclosure does not require the HOA to go to court to foreclose the property of the homeowner.
The HOA needs to receive a judicial order to foreclose on a home before taking any action themselves when the homeowner is an active service member. If the HOA proceeds with a nonjudicial foreclosure with knowledge of the homeowner’s active duty status, they may be fined or imprisoned.
While foreclosure under these circumstances is not permitted, HOAs can have the authority to foreclose on a property under other circumstances. You can find more information in Can HOA Kick You Out Of Your House.
15. You Are Too Young
Just as the HOA cannot discriminate against homeowners based on their familial status, they are also prohibited from discriminating based on age. Enforcing the rule that homes within a community are restricted to those above a certain age is considered an act of discrimination.
The HOA cannot prevent you from living in a certain home or area because of your age in accordance with the Fair Housing Act.
The only exception to this rule is retirement communities because they operate as “senior” living spaces and house residents who are aged 55 and older.
16. No Service Animals Are Permitted
Although the HOA has the right to ban pets, they are not allowed to ban service animals because these are protected by the Fair Housing Act.
Service animals are protected by law because they provide assistance to those living with disabilities, and discrimination against those who are disabled is strictly prohibited by the Fair Housing Act.
The HOA may ask to see documentation to verify that your pet is a registered service animal, but they are not allowed to ask any questions regarding your disability.
It is also important to note that an emotional support animal and a service animal are considered to be different, and emotional support animals are not protected by the same rights as service animals.
17. Adults Only
The Fair Housing Act protects the rights of families with children under the age of 18. Denying a home to a family because they have children is strictly prohibited. The HOA cannot refuse to rent or sell a property to a family that has children.
For example, “adult only” apartment buildings were once common, but would now be considered a violation of the Fair Housing Act because they are discriminatory towards adults who have children.
Once again, the only exception to this rule is for retirement communities because these areas are specifically delegated to senior citizens who are 55 and older.
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