When you’re buying a home, you’re probably thinking more about finding a good real estate agent, closing costs and home inspections than inquiring about a homeowners association (HOA) in the area. HOAs exist to create and maintain added community value by providing shared amenities. They usually charge a monthly HOA fee to cover amenities such as a swimming pool or gym. Others may provide services like lawn care and snow removal.
If you’re moving into a neighborhood that has an HOA, you automatically become a member and must pay dues. And along with the perks mentioned above, HOAs also make rules to maintain a certain feel and aesthetic in the neighborhood. Although some of these rules may prevent lazy neighbors from letting their lawn grow too long or neglecting a bad roof, sometimes the rules and regulations can become overbearing or unreasonable.
Here are 47 things you’ll be surprised to learn an HOA can ban:
1. Unapproved tree removal
One homeowner shared that he was planning to have a cherry tree pruned but in doing so, discovered it was dying and had been infested with carpenter ants. So, he had the tree removed and later received a fine for $100. After a rather nasty letter, his HOA backed off and removed the fine.
2. Airbnb guests
Don’t get any ideas about making extra income through Airbnb if you live in a homeowners association — especially if you live in a condo or community with shared spaces. Most HOAs expressly ban homeowners from being Airbnb hosts.
You may be surprised that your homeowners association can have a major say in your landscaping decisions — and not just trees and shrubs but flowers and even potted plants. One user on Reddit had first-hand experience on this when their HOA fined them and even sent them to collections for not getting architectural approval for two small potted plants by their front door. They ultimately won the case but had to deal with going to court, arguing that the pots weren’t a permanent feature on the house and didn’t drastically change the landscaping.
4. Pre-planning for trash day
Some HOAs have intense rules about trash day. One association made a rule that residents could only put their trash on the curb the day of trash pick-up. While this initially seems reasonable, it translates to having to wake up at the crack of dawn to drag your trash to the curb or staying up past midnight the night before to do so. Putting your trash out one minute before midnight would result in a $25 fine. Worth it if you value your sleep!
5. Overnight guests
We expect some rules regarding overnight guests in dorm rooms or maybe our parent’s house when we were in high school — but adults should have freedom in this area. Not so, according to one HOA. One member shared that their HOA charges $10 for guests staying the night and an additional $5 if they take up a parking spot. Another HOA has a two-night maximum for overnight guests — but they do get in the holiday spirit and up the max to three nights during the holiday season. Residents can provide a written request to the HOA for a longer duration, but forget to do this and management will tow your guest’s car. But here’s the real question — how does the association know if someone’s staying overnight?
6. Blue trampolines
Here’s a strange one — one neighborhood bans blue trampoline covers and further specifies that they must be green or black. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and speculate that the rule applies to prevent birds from accidentally diving into what looks like water? But most likely it’s another case of an overzealous HOA.
7. Certain doorbell frames
Doorbell frames? Yes, it’s true. Some HOAs specify what shape and style of doorbell frame you are permitted to attach to your front door. Novelty frames — like an American flag pattern, sport team logo, or brand is not allowed. Brass was also not allowed, as was a square unless it was rotated to look like a diamond. The preference was a circle, but oval-shaped wouldn’t get you in trouble. Uniform doorbell frames are clearly key to a tidy, cohesive neighborhood.
8. A garage door open more than five minutes
One HOA has specific rules regarding how long you can leave your garage door open — which was five minutes or less. We can see keeping garage doors closed to prevent theft, but closing your garage door while your kids are chalking the driveway seems a bit excessive. And what’s a car enthusiast to do?
9. Light mulch
HOAs love making rules regarding color choices — even when it comes to mulch! One homeowner was fined twice for their mulch being an improper shade of red. It was red — just not the right shade.
10. Different mailboxes
It’s reasonable that the U.S. Postal Service has certain guidelines regarding mailboxes, but HOAs can have their own specifications as well. One association mandated that all mailboxes in the neighborhood be exactly the same — meaning they had to be bought from the same person, who happened to charge around $750! Friend of the HOA president, perhaps?
11. Nuisance and noxious activity
Some HOA rules are there for good reason — of which are rules against “nuisance and noxious activity.” One homeowner intentionally walked around naked without closing his blinds. Thankfully, the association threatened a fine and the problem was resolved.
12. Cats over 15 pounds
One association banned cats over 15 pounds from the neighborhood with justification simply being that “cats just shouldn’t weigh that much.”
One HOA contemplated adding a rule that no airplanes could land in the neighborhood — despite not having any runways or open spaces large enough for a plane to land. After thinking that the Federal Aviation Administration may have a rule against this anyway, they decided to leave it out.
14. Exotic pets … or anything but cats
HOAs can also have stringent rules about pets. One homeowner said their HOA had strict rules on all pets except cats. Only owners living in the property — not renters — were allowed to own a dog, and just one. Hamsters and other tiny furry friends were considered “exotic” and not allowed.
15. A tiki hut
But what’s the difference between a covered patio and a tiki hut?
16. Bikes on the balcony
For bicycle enthusiasts without the benefit of a garage, it seems reasonable to keep their bike safe and secure on their balcony. Some HOAs disagree and ban them from being visible on balconies.
17. Backing into a parking spot
Some HOAs will come knocking on your door if they can’t see your car registration, apparently. This was one HOA’s argument for not allowing residents to park their cars in reverse on the driveway.
18. Certain colors of Christmas lights
Some HOAs have opinions on Christmas lights — and lots of them. Some ban lights altogether and others put limits on how many you are allowed to put up or how often — and when — you can turn them on. One homeowner said their neighborhood even mandates the colors of the lights dependant on house number because “the HOA wants variety.” Bah humbug!
19. A truck in your driveway
One HOA allows you to park in your own driveway — but only if you have a car. No trucks are allowed to be parked in driveways.
20. Hummingbird feeders
One HOA in Houston banned hummingbird feeders. What’s the harm of hummingbirds?
21. A basketball hoop on a garage attached to your house
Here’s a weird one. One HOA prohibits people from installing a basketball hoop on their garage — but only if it’s attached to the house. If it isn’t attached to the house? No problem.
22. Dirty mailboxes
One HOA particularly concerned with cleanliness makes residents wash their mailboxes on a regular basis.
23. Open second story curtains
One resident’s neighbors complained that his furniture could be seen through the window, so the HOA told him he needed to put up curtains in all the windows on the second floor of his home.
24. Open garage doors
One HOA in California mandated that homeowners leave their roll-up garage doors open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you don’t, you could be fined $200. We have so many questions.
25. Year-round hurricane shutters
In Florida, it’s common for homeowners to use hurricane shutters to protect their home. One HOA banned the year-round use of such shutters — telling residents they had to put them on right before a storm and then remove them once it passes. In addition to the extra work created by such a rule, it’s downright dangerous in a state prone to strong storms.
26. Line-drying laundry
One HOA thinks line-drying laundry is an eyesore and fines residents for doing so. So much for saving money! But don’t worry, 19 states have laws on the books to prevent HOAs from banning “solar drying.”
27. Unmounted fire extinguishers
Fire extinguishers should definitely be easily accessible in every home. Most people put them somewhere discreet, like under a sink or in a closet. One HOA mandated that a home’s fire extinguisher must be mounted to a wall in the kitchen and attached to the side of one of the cabinets. Try working that into your decor!
28. Washers and dryers
One HOA wouldn’t allow washer and dryer units inside the property. Hopefully there was a community laundry room available?
An HOA can also keep you from running a business out of your home. This is a nightmare for an entrepreneur — or even a business owner who switched to remote work as a result of the pandemic.
30. Screens doors
HOAs can even have a say in screen doors. One HOA requires you to have a white screen door over your front door, and it must remain closed at all times. Strangely, the same HOA says you can’t have a screen door over your back door.
31. Anything but venetian blinds
One homeowner said her HOA mandated white Venetian blinds on any windows visible from the street. This particular owner had a cat that loved to destroy blinds and had to replace the blinds a dozen times in just one year.
32. Rogue flags
One HOA allows only American flags, the state flag, or a military flag. Don’t even think about showing your individuality with a holiday, seasonal, or sports team flag!
33. Non-uniform mowing
One homeowner lived across the street from an HOA board member who asked them to cut their grass at the same height and in the same pattern. Not only that, they were sent a letter asking them to mow on the same day!
It’s reasonable that an HOA may ban smoking in communal areas or nearby, but some have tried to ban residents from smoking inside their own homes.
35. Certain colors of shingles
One homeowner in Florida had the unfortunate luck of having a plane land on his home. As if that wasn’t bad enough, his HOA fined him because the shingles on his roof were no longer uniform after being replaced!
36. Letting your pet walk
One particular HOA wouldn’t allow pets to walk through common areas — residents had to carry them instead. An older woman with back problems incurred a $25 fine each time she crossed the lobby — she (rightfully so) eventually moved.
37. Mismatched trampoline spring covers
HOAs are all about uniformity — even when it comes to spring covers on trampolines. One association requested that a resident’s spring covers match the color of the trim on the home or face a fine.
Some associations ban all kinds of signage on lawns — which can make things incredibly tricky if you’re trying to sell your home…
39. Commercial vehicles
Other HOAs require that any commercial vehicles, even if owned by the resident, are kept out of sight and parked in a garage at all times.
40. Garage sales
Neighborhood garage sales are a sign of spring in many communities, but some HOAs lay down strict rules regarding them. One mandates that only two garage sales can be hosted per year: one in April and another in September. If that isn’t enough, hosts must wear polos and khakis.
41. Too many cars in the driveway
Driveways are always a point of contention with HOAs. Some mandate the number of cars you can have parked in your own driveway. If you have a family with teenagers with licenses, you could rack up hefty fines by allowing them to have their car parked in the driveway.
42. Cars on the street for longer than an hour
The streets aren’t safe from HOA regulation, either. One HOA set a limit to how long your car could park on the street. Stay longer than an hour, and expect a fine.
43. Off-brand exterior paint
Exterior paint color is another point of contention for HOAs. One association demanded that each home be one of seven specific paint shades of a particular brand not sold in normal hardware stores. This could make painting your home even more expensive.
44. Too long (or too short) dog leashes
One HOA mandated that dogs be walked on leases of a specific length — any longer or shorter would warrant a call by the HOA to animal control and a threat to take your dog away!
Trick-or-treating is another staple of tight-knit communities, but one HOA decided to ban it to “keep people safe.” Many parents drove kids to another neighborhood so they could still participate in the holiday.
46. Old cars
Many neighborhoods have regulations regarding cars that don’t run or are up on blocks. This makes total sense, as they can be quite the eyesore. But one HOA tried to ban “old cars” from sitting in the driveway. In this case, the homeowners brought the case to court and won.
47. Towel sharing
Some more classy HOAs may feature a communal pool for the use of its residents. But this also means the association makes the rules when it comes to said pool. One resident shared their HOA had a rule forbidding towel sharing at the pool. If someone was seen sharing a towel, they’d be fined $25.
48. Propane tank removal
Another HOA insisted a new homeowner enclose his propane tank in a service yard or have a structure around it, despite it having been there ten years prior to them buying the home. Eventually the new owner had to pay $300 to have the useless tank removed and to avoid a fine from the HOA. This brings new meaning to buying a home “as is”!
Bottom line: Know the rules
Just like you’d do your research on realtor fees before selling a home, you should also research if your home is in an HOA when buying and ask for the HOA’s specific rules. It’s simple to find out, and you’ll be able to make an informed decision on whether buying in an HOA is the right move for you.