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HOA Nightmare Stories – Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?

In 2011, a couple in Franklin, Tennessee submitted plans to their neighborhood HOA to add a sun room to the back of their home in order to provide therapy space for their two children with down syndrome. There were several rounds of changes required by the HOA and the family adhered to all of them in their plans and yet their plans were never approved. After months of back and forth the family sold their home at a loss and moved out of the neighborhood, eventually filing suit against the HOA; the suit was settled out of court a few years later.

Disagreements with the HOA, or homeowners association, are common and oftentimes can be settled without major expense to either party, but sometimes the disagreement can get downright ugly. Crazy stories abound, from the family who was threatened with jail time for painting their swing set purple to the man whose unapproved mailbox cost him nearly $11,000 in legal fees. Before you find yourself in a similar predicament, follow these suggestions for ensuring you stay at peace with the HOA:

– Know the HOA rules and regulations before you move in and agree to them. For example, if you have a camper and will need to store it in your driveway, moving into a neighborhood outlawing camper storage isn’t a great move for you.

– If the rules aren’t clear, ask first. Some rules may be ambiguous and the win may fall to you, but if we’ve learned anything from the stories above, it’s that it’s expensive to fight the HOA regardless of who wins! If you’re not sure if there are specifications about what color you can paint your shutters or what kind of mailbox you need, ask for clarification first before you make the decision.

– If a rule seems unfair, respectfully present your information to the board. In most cases, HOA boards are responsive and fair with those who provide the same courtesy. Oftentimes rules may be old and no longer make sense or there may be ways to work around it. When you try a “we’re all in this together” approach, it may make the HOA much more responsive to your requests.

– If you need to fight the HOA, do so with your whole neighborhood. Fighting the HOA by yourself can be exhausting, fruitless and expensive! When you get your neighbors involved, the HOA is much more likely to listen to you and your neighbors may be willing to split some of the legal fees with you if it comes to that. You don’t want your fuss over the $50 mailbox to become the one that costs thousands of dollars!

While there are plenty of neighborhood HOA nightmares, in most cases neighborhood HOAs are working to keep your property values up and their rules and regulations make sense. Just be sure to know what you’re getting into before you buy in a neighborhood that has an HOA!

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