The ABCs of HOAs... Why not abiding by the rules can get you in trouble

Posted at 5:54 PM, Sep 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-27 18:43:26-04

It’s estimated 63 million Americans who live in a newer subdivision or multi-unit development, are likely members of an HOA, or Homeowner’s Association. They can provide a number of benefits, such as taking care of common areas and maintaining the appearance of the neighborhood by setting standards you have to abide by. But you better look at the rules closely.

A tiny house is at the center of a huge controversy in Missouri. And the fight over it is anything but child’s play.

“We have a lot of fun,” 6 year old Emma says.

Her playhouse sits in the backyard of her home. Emma has a serious auto-immune disorder. Because of her illness, she goes to her house each day for breathing treatments.

“It’s her safe place,” her grandmother says.

But Emma’s safe place is at risk of being taken away. The homeowner’s association says this playhouse violates its “no shed policy.”

“Our HOA says you can’t have a shed, but it doesn’t say anything about a playhouse,” she says.

Emma’s grandma says both she and her realtor were told they could bring the playhouse. They asked before buying the house. But in a recent email the homeowners association said the playhouse has to go, adding “we would prefer not to take legal action, but will move forward if not resolved.”

The homeowner's association told our sister station it remains in violation of its rules… rules it says the family had before buying their home.

Know the rules

“There are always rules that you’re going to have to follow,” says Livonia attorney Kevin Hirzel.

He specializes in condo and homeowner’s associations law. He says if the rules are spelled out…

“It’s going to be enforceable if there’s something in the recorded documents.”

Violators could be fined or even sued. In a recent article, says a good HOA protects property values. Some of the most common HOA rules include the appearance of the exterior of your house and landscaping, and additions to your home often need to be approved. Most HOAs limit the number and type of pets you can have, and they have noise restrictions in place.

“It’s really important to be aware of the rules before you buy in, and to make sure you buy in a community that you can actually live in,” Hirzel says.

You can read's report on HOAs here