HOA’s surely have their pros and cons but one major con to being part of an HOA is their strict regulations relating to fencing. The material, color, height, location, and even the existence of your fencing can all be regulated by your HOA.
Fencing rule violations are often strictly enforced by the majority of HOAs. Consequences include having to apply for a fence retroactively, mandated inspections, removal of the fence, as well as warnings and fines.
The HOA will intervene if fences are erected without approval. HOAs can insist on retroactive application for approval and the approval process can be stricter. The fence will be examined and violations will need to be addressed (e.g., repainting or taking down the fence). Warnings and fines can be issued.
Fences Are Regulated by HOAs
While your HOA’s rules for the inside of your home are fairly limited, the outside of your home can easily be seen and is more likely to be regulated by your HOA.
This would include fences since they surround a good portion of your property and are, therefore, very noticeable by passersby.
Similar to the outside of your home, a fence can give an impression as far as the aesthetic of the home as well as how welcoming your home is.
A fence not only gives an impression of the homeowner, whether this is purposeful or not, but it can also affect the impression given by the whole neighborhood.
Although chain link fences are sturdy and normally good at their jobs, they do not look the most inviting. This can reflect badly on the neighborhood, at least in the opinion of your HOA.
A fence does not have to be intimidating for it to cause trouble with your HOA. If your fence is a color other than white or has an odd design, it can make the neighborhood look less cohesive and aesthetically pleasing.
For these reasons and some others that vary by HOA, you must have HOA approval to put up a fence, change a fence, and take down a fence.
Consequences of Putting up an Unapproved Fence
Punishments given by your HOA will vary depending on your HOA’s specific Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The consequences given by an HOA will not necessarily be the same as another HOA’s consequences.
The repercussions below are common but your HOA might have different ones.
It is also important to note that more than one consequence below may be chosen. You may be subject to only one, none, or several.
Required to Make Retroactive Application
If you thought that you could avoid paperwork by putting up, taking down, or altering your fence without HOA approval, you might be sorely mistaken. It is likely that your HOA will require you to retroactively apply for the project you have already gone through with.
Fret not; there is a streamlined process to getting your fence approved by your HOA. Although your previous lack of commitment to the rules might negatively impact your application experience.
The first step would have to be reviewing your HOA’s CC&Rs. If your fence does not follow the requirements for fences detailed here, even if you were to make a retroactive application, it would not be approved.
Next, you would have to present detailed plans to your HOA. These plans would ensure them that your fence will meet their CC&Rs and that you have thought through the process.
When these two steps have been completed, all you can do is wait. Hopefully, within a month your plans will be confirmed and you can either keep your fence as-is or alter it to meet your HOA’s CC&Rs.
Fence Subjected to Inspection
Another consequence of taking down, putting up, or altering your fences without HOA approval would be a mandatory inspection.
Given that your fence was done without initial HOA approval, it is likely to be closely scrutinized for not following your HOA’s CC&Rs. This can lead to bias in the regulations.
While another occupant of the neighborhood may get a quick inspection, greater scrutiny could lead to a likelihood that your fence would be found breaking the rules. While a neighbor could get away with a slip-up, you may not.
Forced to Take the Fence Down
After your fence is inspected, it will either pass or fail. If it fails the inspection, this can lead to some costly changes on your part.
There are a few options if your fence fails the inspection. You may have to do some minor alterations, major alterations, or you may have to remove the fence completely.
Minor alterations would include moving the fence or painting it. Your fence would more or less stay intact and the project would involve significantly less work than if you had to uproot the entire fence. Still, minor alterations would take time and money when you’ve already invested both into the original project.
Major alterations would include getting rid of the current fencing completely. Whether you cannot have a fence or the fence must be replaced, this is a possibility.
Reasons for getting rid of the fence completely would be that fences aren’t allowed, the fencing can’t simply be repainted, the material of the fencing is not what is required within the CC&Rs, the fence is too tall, and various other potential regulations.
Not only did the initial installation of the fencing cost money and take time, whether you did it yourself or hired a professional, but you now must basically do the whole process again. This would mean wasted time, labor, materials, and money.
Even if a fence is not allowed at all and you cannot reinstall fencing, your lawn may be damaged from the fence installation. This would be an added cost.
If this situation wasn’t bad enough, your project would also be under time constraints. Your HOA is likely to give you a time frame for fixing your fence to prevent procrastination. Even if you do not have the time or funds available at the moment, the fence must be fixed in the time frame or the HOA may take legal action against you for violating the CC&Rs.
Unfortunately, you cannot just ignore your HOA. Their CC&Rs are legally-binding documents and can lead to fines, revoking of privileges, and legal action.
Warnings and Fines
If this is the first time you have broken an HOA rule, then it is likely that you will be given a warning. You will still have to correct the mistake in a timely manner but you will most likely not be fined.
Although a warning seems like no harm is done, it can mean trouble further down the road. Once you have broken a rule and received a warning, if you have another violation, it is possible that you will be fined for this violation instead of just a warning. Usually, warnings are for first-time offenders.
Another danger of receiving a warning is that your HOA will be warier about how you comply with HOA CC&Rs. They may be inclined to observe your property more regularly to look for violations, at least more often than when your record was clean.
A more watchful eye could lead to the discovery of more violations that were initially unnoticed and could lead to you not being trusted by the HOA.
If this was not your first violation, you could be fined for putting up a fence without HOA approval. These fines can range from $25-$100.