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7 'House Rules' to Look Out for in HOA Agreements

By Andrew Lu on February 24, 2013 12:05 PM

When you want to move into a condo or housing development, you typically have to sign off on an HOA agreement specifying the rules of the development.

With so many other things to worry about when it comes to buying a home, the homeowners association agreement is often an afterthought.

It's usually not until you're comfortably settled in to your new home when you come to realize that your HOA agreement is actually quite restrictive, and may set some "house rules" that you wish you hadn't agreed to.

Here are seven things to look out for in your HOA agreement:

  1. Barriers to home businesses. Running a law office or daycare center from your home may sound like a great idea. But if your homeowners association does not allow any business or commercial activity in your home, you may have to find outside office space.

  2. Restrictions on animals. Moving into the home of your dreams may require you to trade your bullmastiff puppy for a chihuahua. Most of us are not willing to part with man's best friend, so be aware of pet restrictions in HOA agreements.

  3. Clampdown on clothes lines. If you like sun-dried clothing, you may have to consider living somewhere not covered by an HOA. Clothes lines, which are inevitably accompanied by people's underwear hanging in public view, are often considered an eyesore, so many HOAs prevent this practice.

  4. Nighttime noise/nuisance rules. You may have to turn the volume down by a certain hour. Review the HOA agreement to learn exactly when and if this time suits your lifestyle.

  5. Limits on leasing your home. You may have bought the home as an investment property. But many HOA agreements require that the units be owner-occupied.

  6. Patio prohibitions. Some HOAs prohibit the use of your patio as storage space for bikes and boxes. Many even require you to dispose of unsightly dead plants, and can fine you if you fail to act after a series of written warnings.

  7. Carpeting considerations. Be aware that many condominium HOAs require that you carpet a certain percentage of your home. That's because footsteps on hardwood floors can seriously irritate your neighbors beneath you. Make sure you read this provision and have carpet in the correct places.

Whether any of these terms in an HOA agreement are a deal-breaker is up to you. However, you should be aware of these provisions, so you will have realistic expectations of what you can (and cannot) do in your new home.

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