Being a jerk to your neighbors can cost you more than an invite to the block party — especially if you're among the millions of U.S. residents who live in a homeowners association. Commonly referred to by their abbreviation, HOAs are communities governed by a board that sets and enforces neighborhood bylaws.
If you think owning a home affords you the right to paint your house magenta or drag your garbage cans to the curb any time you darn well please, a homeowners association might not be for you. While rules vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, those living in an HOA can face fines for a host of nuisance behaviors. According to a survey by Porch, a home improvement service that polled 736 HOA residents online, that behavior can range from bringing the trash out at the wrong time to putting up holiday decorations too early.
The most common reason for a fine? "Improper landscaping," a violation that covers everything from allowing too many weeds to grow to "having plants that stand out from the established aesthetic of the community," a Porch representative says via email.
Of course, planting the wrong tree is far from the only breach that will get you in trouble. Nearly as many respondents said they were levied a fine for bringing out the trash too early or too late. This might sound petty, but blog articles with headlines like "5 Tips for Taking Out the Trash in a HOA Community" and "The Truth about HOA trash can violations" probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't a serious point of contention.
According to the survey, homeowners are also commonly fined for owning a disallowed pet, putting up "improper or untimely holiday decorations" or having "improperly parked vehicles." You can see the full list on porch.com.
The typical fine will cost a homeowner anywhere from $25 to more than $100, according to HouseLogic. Depending on the violation, fines can even mount for every day an issue goes unaddressed — so while you might want to keep that inflatable pumpkin on your lawn all year, it pays to know when, and if, it's permitted in your neighborhood.