Your HOA Nixed Your Home Improvement Project. Now What?

It’s not usually better to beg forgiveness than ask permission when it comes to your HOA and home improvement projects. Your HOA has the power to put a lien on your house or charge you a pretty hefty fine if you make an improvement that’s against the rules. But what happens if your HOA says you can’t do your project? Do you just give up?

Know your rights/read the rules

You wanted to paint your house light blue and got rejected? Well if your covenants said you can only paint a “tasteful color” are you really in the wrong? A lot of times the language in the HOA rules will be general or vague and left up to interpretation. If that’s the case, it’ll be easier for you to argue your case.

Document everything

Keep a record of any email, letter, or conversation you’ve had with the HOA. You should even go so far as to write down what happened in a conversation and send that to the HOA. Ask them if what you heard is what they meant. It’ll keep you both honest--and might even help bypass some ugly situations if tempers are running high.

Rally the troops

Talk with your neighbors and see if anyone has had the same problem. This will help you do two things. First, if all your other neighbors were allowed to put in vinyl windows and you weren’t, you can establish discrimination. Second, if your neighbors think your treatment is unfair, they might be willing to support you. That way when they’re ready to make a home improvement, they won’t run into the same issue as you.

Request a review

When you request a review, you’ll get the chance to present your case in front of the HOA board and your fellow neighbors. The majority of people might side with you and you can take the steps to change the rule.

Remember, you’ll catch more flies with honey

Remind to be kind, courteous, and professional in all your interactions with the HOA--even if all you want to do is punch someone in the face. Being on the HOA board can sometimes be a thankless job. Trust us, you’ll get much better results if you’re nice. Besides, no one wants to take the side of the neighborhood hothead who might put a flaming bag of dog poop on your front porch if you tick them off.     

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Keep paying your fines

You don’t want to give the HOA anything else to complain about. Plus paying your dues and fines will show that you’re a responsible homeowner with the neighborhood’s best interest at heart.

Try to amend the rules

If you can get enough of your neighbors on your side, you might be able to change the rules. After all, some of the rules might have made sense before, but now they’re just weird.

Apply for a variance

You probably won’t be able to get one for the color of your house. But another home improvement like building a higher fence because your dog can jump the lower one might work.

Take legal action

If all else fails, you can take legal action. Before you do, decide whether your request is worth the time and money it will take to fight for it. You might end up deciding the moral victory is worth it. You should also be sure to hire an attorney with HOA experience.