Living in an HOA isn’t for everyone. Some HOA communities are positive places to live and they have simple rules based on common decency and kinship. And then there are HOA communities that belittle every single member of the HOA that isn’t part of the in-group. It is communities like these that give HOAs a bad name.
Many terrible HOAs rely on members not being able to comprehend the law. If the members do not know what is legal and illegal, they will control their members. Every state has HOA rules on what they can and cannot force members in the community to do.
So, we searched the laws of Canada, the UK, and the USA to find unenforceable HOA rules. If you are part of an HOA, read over these rules to learn if you’re being swindled by the membership board of your community.
Unenforceable HOA Rules
Below is a list of rules that HOA boards may not enforce. If any HOAs attempt to enforce these rules, it is quite possible the state can legally side with the dejected member. Sometimes, the state can dissolve the HOA.
1. An HOA Cannot Restrict Text on Banners, Signs, and Posters
In the US, the divide between the left and the right and Democrat and Republican grows wider every day. The divide between Tory and Labour voters is just as tumultuous. And you never know who is going to start a shouting match with you if you’re in Old Quebec City and you say Justin Trudeau is doing a good job.
But no matter what your neighbors think and what the HOA board members want to see in their community, no one has the power to restrict what you can and cannot say.
In the HOA community, no one may prevent a person from hanging banners, posters, or signs with political slogans, organization slogans, or any other text. You can even write vulgar words on posts and signs, and they cannot do anything about it.
However, HOAs can restrict how the homeowner presents those words. For example, if you want to write Biden or Trump sucks in spray paint on your garage door, then the HOA can legally fine you.
This type of sign is technically graffiti, even if it is on your own garage door. However, if you want to write those words on the banner or a flag, then you can do so, as long as there are no rules against banners or flags.
If the rules state that the size of the flag cannot be larger than 6 ft by 4 ft, the HOA can give you a fine if your flag is bigger than the allotted size.
2. HOAs Cannot Prevent the Homeowner from Putting Up A Clothesline
Many HOAs try to get away with this. Some members of an HOA want their neighborhood to look perfect and pristine, as if it was part of a movie set.
But people live in their homes, and part of life is doing laundry. During a bright sunny day outside, it is better for the environment and your electric bill to put your clothes on a clothesline.
HOAs may not restrict people from placing clothing on their own homes’ clothesline, even if the clothesline is in their front yard.
3. An HOA Cannot Discriminate Against LGBTQ People
An HOA should be open to everyone. Some people are not comfortable with members of the LGBTQ+ community, but they do not have the power to restrict anyone from that community from purchasing a home in the HOA.
A person applying to be part of the HOA must fit all the requirements for the HOA. But none of those requirements can be about sexual orientation.
If a person is rejected from the HOA, then there has to be clear documentation on why they were rejected.
4. An HOA Cannot Violate the City’s or State’s Laws Concerning Guns
A HOA may not restrict the number of guns a person can have in the United States. If the state’s laws say that a person can have up to five handguns without needing to own a gun safe, then the HOA cannot force them to purchase a gun safe.
5. An HOA Cannot Fine a Person for a Violation That Does Not Require a Fine
Every HOA rule must be clearly stated in the rulebook. Also, any fines a person receives for breaking a rule must also be clearly stated in that section of the rule book.
For example, your HOA may have a rule stating that no one can leave their dog out in the front yard past 10:00 p.m., but this rule does not have a fine. The HOA can warn you or write a violation if your dog is outside at 10:30pm, but they may not give you a fine, since the rule does not have a fine.
If they would like to add a fine to the rule, the board must go through the official rule creation or rule amendment process.
6. A HOA May Not Ban Pets
When you move into your new home, of course you’d bring your pets with you. A HOA cannot prevent you from owning animals if the state or the city allows you to have them.
If the city’s law says that a person can have up to three animals in a single home, then the HOA cannot restrict the member to one animal. However, if the state says that no pigs or chickens are allowed on a property, then the HOA can force you to get rid of your farmhouse pets.
7. HOAs Cannot Ban Service Animals Under the Disguise of Banning Pets
Service animals are protected by the ADA and by disability laws. Not only will the HOA board come under fire by the local members for trying to ban a service animal, they can actually be charged with a federal crime.
8. HOA May Not Establish Their Own Police
We do not live in the wild west anymore. Towns and communities must abide by the laws of the region and listen to the established police. If the HOA establishes a neighborhood watch, they’re not allowed to carry weapons or go into people’s homes.
9. HOAs May Not Ban People from Talking to Other People
What a crazy rule to make up! But we don’t doubt that power goes to some people’s heads and they will want to use the power of the HOA to exempt people from talking to them. A person can talk to whoever they like.
10. HOAs Cannot Forbid a Member From Inviting People Over to Their Home
You can invite as many friends over to your home as you like. You can throw parties and sleepovers when you want as well.
If the HOA has a rule against parties past a certain time, then you must end the party at the agreed upon time. But as long as you keep the noise down, your friends can stay over as long as you like.
11. HOAs Cannot Select Which Members Are Exempt from Certain Rules
Unless there are specific circumstances, every person in the HOA must follow all the rules in the HOA rulebook. For example, if a homeowner lives in an HOA community for five years, after the 5th year, the rules say they can plant any species. So any homeowner who lives in the community after 5 years can have any plants they want.
But the HOA board cannot handpick which members can’t have certain plants and which members can. That is not fair treatment.
12. An HOA Cannot Enforce A Rule That Has Been Ignored for Years.
It is unfair if an HOA has been overlooking a rule for years and then decides to fine everyone who doesn’t follow the rule.
This is actually quite common in many communities. Sometimes rules fall by the wayside or people forget about them. Eventually, nobody follows the rule for years.
One day, someone develops an issue with another member of the HOA. In an act of revenge, they try to use that rule that nobody is following against their target.
It may be a rule, but since no one is following the rule, a board member cannot give people fines out of nowhere.
13. An HOA Cannot Invent Rules When They Feel Like It
Every new rule must go through a creation process and that means that the HOA members may vote on it. If most voters vote in favor of the rule, then that rule can be put into action.
But HOA board members may not invent rules in the middle of the night and put them into practice the next morning. Every home in the HOA must be notified of the new rule and know the exact date when enforcement of the rule begins.
Some states require that HOAs must get the signature of every homeowner so that they understand that there is a new rule.
14. HOAs Cannot Stop Additions to a Home if it is for a Disability
If protected by the disabilities act, a HOA cannot restrict new builds, fixtures, or additions to a house. For example, if a person in a wheelchair requires a ramp to get into their home, the HOA cannot restrict them from installing a ramp in the front and back yard.
15. HOAs Cannot Restrict a Person From Placing a Satellite Dish on Their Home
The sight of a satellite dish on a roof should not be an issue for anyone. A satellite dish provides access to satellite internet and satellite tv. But some HOA members have tried to restrict the fixtures a homeowner can install on their home’s roof.
Restrictions like this are illegal, and an HOA member can have a satellite dish on the roof of their home. But the HOA can say that the satellite dish has to be in the backyard or on the back part of their roof.
16. HOAs May Not Create Rules That Violate Laws of the City, State, or Country
A HOA is a community, not its own private country. A HOA cannot have a rule that allows people to do what the law forbids. For example, in the UK and Canada, people may drink at 18 years old. The HOAs in these countries may not forbid their members from drinking until they’re 21. Also, they’re not allowed to drop the age of drinking to 12.
17. HOAs Cannot Create Rules with Vague Language
Laws and specific language go hand in hand. Although it happens all the time, an HOA may not create a rule with vague or broad language.
Let’s say there is a rule stating all homes must remove their clothes lines in bad weather. They cannot use the word bad weather.
The rule must specifically state what type of weather. The rule has to say they must remove all clothes lines if the weather achieves or surpasses 20+ mph winds.
Conclusion to HOA Rules
An HOA is supposed to be a community of like-minded homeowners who all agree to the rules, so their neighborhood is beautiful and safe. But like any organization, it can become corrupted or mismanaged.
If you live in HOA, check the rules you have to follow and see if they’re clearly stated in the rule book and if there is a fine next to it. You’ll be surprised at what you find!