Deed restrictions in HOA communities are commonplace, and every homeowner must understand what these are. So, what is a deed restriction anyway? And what can homeowners do about them?
In this article:
What Are Deed Restrictions in HOA Communities?
What is a deed-restricted community? Simply put, a deed-restricted community is a development with certain limitations on what actions residents can make. Deed restrictions, also known as restrictive covenants, dictate what homeowners can and can’t do with their property. These are requirements that homeowners agree to upon moving into the HOA and, thus, must follow.
Common Deed Restrictions to Watch Out For
No two homeowners associations are exactly alike, both in terms of structure and in terms of deed restrictions. Every HOA has different restrictions in place.
If you want to know how to find out deed restrictions in your community, simply ask the agent or HOA itself prior to purchasing the property. It is important to familiarize yourself with restrictive covenants so that you know what you are getting into.
While not all associations have the same policies, these are some of the most common deed restrictions in HOA communities today:
1. House Color
When it comes to property exteriors, homeowners associations value uniformity. Sticking to a single color palette can elevate a neighborhood’s appeal in an instant. With this type of restrictive covenant, the HOA can prevent clashing colors and vibrant shades.
Color restrictions tend to be specific, too. An HOA can allow one shade of brown but ban a lighter tone of brown. Some even give you lists of permitted or prohibited colors. It can also apply to finishes, such as stone and brick. If your house will have a siding, the HOA may limit your options to a handful of styles.
2. Number of Vehicles
Aside from the property itself, deed restrictions can also apply to your vehicles. The association can impose limitations on how many vehicles you can park in the driveway as well as what type. Some HOAs don’t allow you to park motorcycles, boats, and motorhomes. This is in keeping with the same principle of uniformity, which directly affects the curb appeal of the community and its property values.
3. Number of Bedrooms
Deed restrictions in HOA communities are not limited to the exterior of your property. Some HOAs have restrictions on the number of bedrooms your house can have. Typically, this restriction is due to septic or sewer capacity. Still, not being allowed to build as many bedrooms as you wish can seriously hamper your plans for your dream house.
4. Pet Policies
Pet policies are nothing new to most homeowners associations. A lot of HOAs have restrictions on the breed, size, and the number of pets residents can have, with some HOAs even going as far as banning pets altogether. This is mainly due to the destructive nature of some animals and their propensity to defacate just about anywhere. If you have pets or plan on adopting some, make sure to orient yourself with the association’s pet restrictions.
5. Fences and Other Structures
If you intend on building fences, pools, extra garages, sheds, and other structures, there is a good chance you will need to seek approval from your HOA. There are some HOAs that prohibit them altogether, while others have strict regulations on what exactly you can build and how you can build it. For instance, an HOA can limit your options to white picket fences of a certain height in order to maintain consistency.
6. Renovation Plans
Living in the same home for years on end can grow dull, and renovations are a great way to change things up. However, if you want to alter or add any plans to your home, you may need to clear it with the HOA as well. If your renovation plans significantly veer away from the general style of the neighborhood, the HOA is likely not going to approve them for the sake of uniformity.
7. Cutting Down Trees
Trees add an indescribable beauty to any property or neighborhood. As such, it comes as no surprise that many HOAs prohibit residents from cutting down certain trees. Every association has its own conditions and reasons for restricting the removal of trees. It could stem from a desire to maintain a specific look for the landscape or simply out of concern for the environment.
8. Blocking Your Neighbor’s View
A scenic view can raise the value of any property and attract more residents or tenants. To preserve this, many associations forbid building structures that can obstruct a neighbor’s view. So, if you plan on building a three-story house, you must first make sure it does not impede any views. This type of restrictive covenant is more typical in vacation areas with high tourism.
9. Use of Property for Business
Home offices are generally acceptable, but a common restriction many associations have is banning the use of residential properties for business. This is usually in an effort to limit the number of people (customers) and vehicles going in and out of your home and, by extension, the neighborhood. Although a lot of HOAs enforce this restrictive covenant, it is prevalent in gated or private communities. Residents value safety, and the increased traffic can lead to a higher crime rate, though not always.
How to Fight Deed Restrictions
HOA communities impose deed restrictions in a general effort to maintain uniformity, boost curb appeal, and raise property values. Sometimes, though, the restrictions can go too far and start to suffocate residents.
It is important to keep in mind that not all deed restrictions are enforceable. Illegal restrictive covenants, for instance, are ineffectual. Vague or outdated deed restrictions may also be deemed unenforceable.
A good example of a restrictive covenant that violates the law has to do with hanging laundry to dry outdoors. Many states have laws protecting homeowners’ right to dry, which means HOAs cannot prohibit members from drying their laundry on a clothesline or rack. If your HOA has a similar restriction, you must check your state laws to see if your association is in violation.
Although changing deed restrictions can come as a challenge, homeowners are not entirely powerless. You can head to your county courthouse to acquire a copy of the restrictive covenant. This usually contains the terms on how to alter the restriction. You can also secure a waiver providing you with permission to go against the restrictive covenant.
Do Deed Restrictions Expire?
If changing the restriction or securing a waiver does not pan out, you can always wait for the restrictive covenant to expire, though this is not always a viable option. In general, deed restrictions do not expire. Some restrictions, though, have expiration dates. You can find out whether a restrictive covenant has an expiration date by heading to your county courthouse. The copy of the restriction should indicate whether or not there is an expiration date.
Even if the deed restriction has an expiration date, though, that does not necessarily mean you are in the clear. Your HOA can still vote to extend the restriction’s time limit.
Why Deed Restrictions Matter
Deed restrictions in HOA communities can turn off a lot of potential homeowners from moving in. However, you must remember that these restrictions exist for a purpose. As a homeowner, you naturally want your investment to flourish. You cannot sell your house at a profit later on if its property value does not rise. And, believe it or not, HOAs play a key role in increasing property values by maintaining curb appeal and consistency throughout the neighborhood.
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