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What your Homeowner’s Association can and cannot do

At times, your Homeowner’s Association (HA) contract can look all-powerful and intimidating. There are clauses in every contract that outline what they can limit and regulate, but the people who interpret it are known to push the envelope.

If you suspect that something in your contract is too demanding or, frankly, ridiculous, you might be able to challenge it. Homeowners Associations contracts may be detailed but it does not entitle them to disrupt your life.

What can they limit?

Homeowner’s Association contracts aim to keep a certain standard of living in a neighborhood, typically by maintaining a certain appearance for every living unit. This can also include the following:

  • Exterior features (colors, doors, shutters, awnings etc.)
  • Landscaping
  • Yard barriers (fences, etc.)
  • Children’s play structures
  • Pets
  • Noise limits
  • Additional exterior structures (sheds, garages, etc.)

These are only a few of the many things that could be included in your contract. However, each neighborhood is unique and some associations are more demanding than others.

Where is their influence limited?

Despite what some associations would like to believe, they cannot regulate everything at all times. For example, they must not discriminate against others as stated in the Fair Housing Act. They also cannot do the following:

  • Forbid private backyard clotheslines
  • Forbid dish-based cable (in accordance with federal law)
  • Forbid native plants from the state of Florida
  • Forbid you from speaking at meetings (unless there is an extreme circumstance)
  • Create new rules without giving notice or following protocol

If you receive a letter informing you that something around your home is violating your contract and you may be fined, check that contract. If they do not cite a specific breach, or they are interpreting something too loosely, you may have a right to challenge it. Yes, you want to be a good neighbor, but defending your rights as a homeowner can empower the entire association.

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