If you own a home that’s not part of a homeowner association (HOA), you’re free to make big and small changes. Build a fence, remodel your kitchen, or paint your front door purple—it’s up to you.

But for the estimated 22% of the population who do live in an HOA, you often need approval from the HOA board before doing a renovation or repair. The board needs to make sure that the project you’re planning aligns with the rules and regulations of your HOA.

Some people assume that anything external (siding, fence, front yard) requires approval, and anything inside your HOA home does not. While it’s true that things you can see from the outside usually need approval, most HOAs have rules about interior changes, too.

Why pre-approval is important

If you don’t ask for approval and your project breaks HOA rules, the board can force you to redo the work. They might also slap you with a fine. Avoid the extra expense and hassle. Make sure your project is compliant before anyone lifts a hammer or buys a $40 can of paint.
In general, you need board approval for renovations that involve:

  • Elements visible from the exterior of your home. These impact the look and feel of the HOA, so the board needs to sign off on these changes.
  • Moving or adding plumbing or electrical services. The water line, sewage pipes and electrical line are communal, and your work could impact everyone’s service.
  • Moving load-bearing walls. These walls are structural rather than merely decorative and could affect your neighbors if you live in a condo or townhome.

HOA Rules: A Word About CC&Rs

Every HOA has governing documents, also known as CC&Rs (covenants, conditions & restrictions). These documents say what you can and cannot do to your home. Requirements vary across HOAs, so it’s important to read the CC&Rs for your HOA.

We’ve outlined some projects that usually do and don’t require approval. But remember—check your HOA’s unique CC&Rs before work begins!

Typical HOA Rules & Restrictions
Approval usually required No approval required
Full kitchen remodel (moving/adding plumbing and electricity) Replacing kitchen appliances, countertop and sink
Full bathroom remodel (moving/adding plumbing and electricity) Replacing an existing bathroom sink, shower or tub
Removing a load-bearing wall to open up a room Interior paint and wallpaper
Rewiring a wall for new lighting or sound system Replacing existing light fixtures
Updating exterior trim Updating interior trim, like baseboards and crown molding
New tile or hardwood floor New carpeting or other floor coverings
Planting trees in your backyard (as they may grow above the fence line) Gardening in your fenced backyard

Some projects might be completely out of the question in an HOA—like a backyard hockey rink or putting green. But it never hurts to ask!

What to do if your project needs HOA approval

So, you’ve read your HOA’s CC&Rs, and it’s clear—the board will need to approve your project plan. How do you deal with your HOA board?

  1. Submit project forms to your HOA. Ask your board for these forms, as they vary by HOA.
  2. Hire qualified contractors. If your basic plan is approved, it’s time to hire professionals to carry out the work. HOAs often require that the people you hire have proper insurance and licensing to perform the work (thankfully, HomeAdvisor screens for these things). Trustworthy contractors will need to read your CC&Rs, to make sure the project stays compliant.
  3. Submit detailed project plans, if required. Some HOAs want to see detailed plans, created by your contractor, before work begins.

Find a contractor for your HOA-approved project; link to directory page

Do it right the first time

When renovating within an HOA home, read your HOA’s CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions), which provide the rules and regulations of your homeowner association. Next, seek approval from your board. Once you’ve taken these important steps, you can rest easy that your home improvement is satisfying both you and your board.

FAQ

What happens if you break homeowner association rules?

The board of directors of your HOA is required to enforce the rules and regulations detailed in your HOA’s CC&Rs. If you or another homeowner breaks a rule in your HOA’s CC&Rs, your HOA might give you a notice, charge a fine or take legal action. The consequences of a rule violation vary by HOA—it all depends on your specific HOA’s CC&Rs.

Are HOA rules legally binding?

Yes, HOA rules are legally binding. The documents and contents of the HOA governing documents are typically tied to state statutory laws. These laws are often incorporated into HOA CC&Rs and ultimately provide legal protections to the HOA. Rules and regulations as set forth by HOA board, however, cannot conflict the CC&R, which are truly the authority for the HOA.

Why do HOAs have rules on what I can and can’t do with my home?

There are many reasons why HOAs have rules. Making life easier, protecting resale value, and maintaining a sense of community are some of these reasons. For HOA homeowners who are renovating, the rules are designed to safeguard home values, avoid potential conflicts and issues, and comply with safety standards.

 

JSP ToolboxJSP Toolbox is an online suite of tools and resources that empowers homeowner associations (HOAs) to manage themselves, easily and affordably. Learn more about JSP Toolbox
 

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