Unenforceable Rules: Can You Get Around HOA Rules

A community needs rules and regulations to prevent chaos and disaster. And HOA enforceable rules are there to maintain and preserve community values and utilities. But what if the rules are unreasonable or illegal? Can you get around HOA rules?

Yes, there are unenforceable HOA rules. The HOA can enforce the agreed HOA rules, but there is a limit. State and federal laws are above homeowners association rules, and that’s where unenforceable HOA rules come in.

What Are Unenforceable HOA Rules

Before you understand unenforceable HOA rules, it’s important to know about enforceable HOA rules. As mentioned, most homeowners associations have bylaws and regulations that ensure the community’s members maintain specific standards. 

But are HOA rules legally binding? And can you refuse to join an HOA?

Are HOA Rules Legal

Once you buy a home that’s part of an HOA, you automatically become a member of the HOA. HOA rules are legally binding, and you must adhere to all rules and regulations in the governing document. Yes, there are bylaws that you may not like, but there are no HOA loopholes. 

HOA Rules Enforcement

Most communities have a board that regulates and enforces HOA regulations. This board has the right to fine you or impose any legal disciplinary measure if you violate the rules. These guidelines may limit what you can do inside and outside your home. These may cover anything from your house’s color to your satellite dish’s size.

HOA rules differ from community to community. But regulations that go against state and federal law are not enforceable.

Unenforceable HOA Rules

Generally, a rule is unenforceable if it falls under one or more of the following four categories.

Breaches Rights and Laws

No HOA can create or enforce rules and regulations that violate the written law. Some laws are there to protect every citizen, and any infringement is a violation of your human rights.

For instance, you have the freedom of speech and worship. HOAs cannot have rules that ban people from expressing their religious or political views. That means you can put up political banners, the national flag, or various types of religious expressions.

However, HOA rules can determine the size of your political signs and where you place them. If your signs ruin the community’s curb appeal, the HOA board can ask you to put them elsewhere. The rules may also limit the duration you can put these signs before and after elections.

An HOA also can’t discriminate against anyone (even potential owners) based on race, national origin, religion, family status, sex, or disability. Some states, such as California, even have laws that protect some classes like the LGBTQ+ community.

You may also have the right to bear arms, but most HOAs restrict where you can carry your gun. For example, you can’t take your gun to public or shared communal utilities. Also, your HOA cannot prevent you from installing a satellite dish or antenna. But remember, some HOAs can limit the size of your dish and its location.

Some states have also further enacted rules that protect landscaping and sun drying (that is your right to have a clothesline).

Rules Without Authority

The HOA board has every right to impose fines or disciplinary measures if a homeowner breaches the rules. But they should have the power to act.

This means they can’t impose a fine on you if you’ve not breached any stipulated rules. They can’t use their power arbitrarily.

Selective/Inconsistent Application of Rules

Selective enforcement goes against most HOA governing documents or state laws. It is an unenforceable rule if an HOA applies these rules to one homeowner or community section but not the other. 

Also, homeowner associations must comply with the HOA governing documents when enforcing any rule. Typically, the homeowner in question has to receive a written notice and a chance to face the HOA board.

Remember, while you can take legal action against the selective application, you must prove it happened.

Rules Enacted Incorrectly

HOA boards amend rules from time to time. But the board has to follow laid-down procedures when amending its bylaws.

So, can HOA change rules after your purchase? In a nutshell, yes. Laws have to change to meet changing times. Still, the HOA has to follow the rules in the governing document — otherwise, it’s unenforceable. 

Some states and covenants also require associations to get the majority homeowners’ vote before any amendment.

Unenforceable Rules: What To Do

It’s important to read the HOA governing rules and guidelines before agreeing to them. As mentioned, they are legally binding.

You can use mediation, consult the HOA board, or pursue legal action if there is any breach.