Homeowners’ associations or HOAs are rarely anyone’s favorite, especially the really annoying, overbearing HOAs. You don’t want to move out anytime soon, but your HOA drives you nuts. How do you deal with them?
Here are some methods for handling an HOA when they’re annoying:
- Know your rights
- Keep things private
- Bolster other members
- Work with a mediator
- Be involved
- Get on the HOA board yourself
When dealing with an annoying HOA, the key is never to stoop to their level. You can be annoying right back, but where does that get you? The methods we’ll discuss today will pave the way for change, so keep reading!
7 Options for Dealing with an Annoying HOA Board
Know Your Rights
When your HOA tells you to take down your holiday decorations by December 26th, are they within their rights?
What about when they demand that you remove religious décor outside or inside your home?
If you don’t know your rights, then your HOA can seem incredibly overbearing and annoying.
Before you start doing anything more freely, we do recommend that you read over your contract to ensure you can indeed do these things legally.
Most HOA contracts, if you’re willing to look at them, permit the following activities:
- Line-drying your clothes in the yard (applies to HOAs in Vermont, Texas, Maryland, Maine, Florida, Hawaii, Colorado, and California only)
- Add TV satellites or solar panels to your property (even though they’re ugly, they’re allowed)
- Place religious signs or statues outside of your property or within view of your property (HOAs cannot discriminate against you based on your religion)
- Put the American flag on your property, be that outside or visibly inside (this is your right, and not just around Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, either)
- Place political signs on your property (in Washington and Texas especially; other state HOAs can ban political signs to keep the peace or may limit the size and number of signs and the duration they can be placed)
We can’t stress enough that HOA laws do vary by state. Thus, even if you hear online of someone in a HOA who’s allowed to do X or Y, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do the same.
However, no matter which state in the United States you call home, a HOA cannot discriminate against you for any reason, nor can they deny reasonable accommodations for the disabled.
Keep Things Private
You and your HOA butt heads a lot, and you’re sorry to say. How you handle things going forward can be the difference between your HOA continuing to annoy you at every turn and things possibly becoming harmonious in the future.
At the very beginning, at least, you should be accommodating to the HOA. It’s not like you can get rid of them, after all (well, maybe, but keep reading for more on that), so you should try to work with them as much as possible.
That means that when you two have an issue, don’t air it out like your line-dried laundry. Keep things civil and private between you and the HOA members on the board.
Since you know your rights now, if it turns out that the HOA is trying to tell you to take down your American flag or your religious statue of Buddha on the lawn, you know that they’re in the wrong.
Once you show them the legal paperwork proving as much, it should be a non-issue.
What if you don’t have any handy legal laws to back you up, and it’s you against the HOA? Well, sorry to say, but in almost every instance, the HOA wins.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth putting up a fight. However, it’s better to do it in a private forum than a public one that involves all your neighbors.
The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but that doesn’t always mean that getting the grease is a good thing.
If you’re loudly proclaiming something to the whole community only to turn out to be wrong, it’s going to look terrible for you.
Others in your community might look down on you. Plus, you’ve now lost credibility in the eyes of your neighbors.
Be tactful and have a private discussion with the HOA at first, fully knowing your rights when you walk into the conversation.
Bolster Other Members
Let’s say that you’re having so much strife with your HOA for a good reason.
Perhaps it’s inconvenient for you to have to remove all the snow on your property within 24 hours because your back gave out.
You know for a fact that other neighbors in your community struggle with the same issue, especially some of the older members.
At the end of the day, the HOA’s job is to serve the residents.
If you’ve found that going to the HOA privately about an issue isn’t working and you know you’d have the support of others, then by all means, bolster them.
There is indeed power in numbers. It’s a lot easier for the HOA to dismiss a concern from a single resident than it is for them to do that with 10 or 20 residents.
The HOA makes the rules, and you have to live by them, but that doesn’t mean per se that those rules are completely inflexible.
Some HOAs may consider revising the rules if it’s more convenient for the larger population within your community.
That’s not a guarantee, of course, but it is worth trying.
Work with a Mediator
Unfortunately, some people let the role of HOA board member go to their heads. It’s not unheard of for HOA boards to consist of bullies.
Even though there’s power in numbers, a bully HOA board member might enjoy the power of being able to reject a request from a quarter of the community.
That’s not for the betterment of the community, of course, but for this board member’s ego and to bolster their feelings of power.
You might not be sure what to do when you’re bullied out of all proper discussion and decorum with an HOA board member.
Even if you try being ultra-polite about things, a bully HOA member will not be willing to listen to reason.
Unfortunately, this is their MO. The rationale is that you’ll feel dejected by denying your every request and eventually give up asking for anything. This way, it’s a lot easier for this HOA member to do their job.
Indeed, that’s what will happen, as you’ll feel unable to get anywhere with the bully HOA member, and you’ll probably just quit trying.
Before you do that, it might be worth looking into bringing a mediator on board.
The expense for a professional mediator will come out of your pocket, and you can’t exactly ask for reimbursement from the HOA later.
If you can afford the service, a professional mediator might be able to do what you cannot, get through to a bully HOA member and get them to see eye-to-eye with who they serve.
You can’t only care about what’s happening within your HOA when it suits you. That’s very fair-weather of you, and other HOA board members will notice that too.
It’s okay if a pet project was what got you passionate about the HOA board, but now that you’re there, make sure you keep up with it.
When your local community has meetings, attend them. Don’t just sit there but be vocal during the meetings when you have a point to make or a concern to address.
Keep in mind that only some meetings are open to the community. Others might be for the HOA board only, in which case you cannot participate in those meetings.
Although attending a meeting may sound boring, it’s anything but.
This is your chance to hear what the HOA board values and prioritizes, how the money that you pay every month to your HOA is being allocated, and what kinds of plans the HOA has for your community.
Annual meetings are also when the HOA board of electors is voted in. Thus, if you’ve had a problem with a bully member or two of the HOA board, you might have the chance to vote them out.
At the very least, you can vote for someone else who seems more suitable for the job.
Get on the HOA Board Yourself
The best way to have a more proactive presence in the HOA community is to join the HOA as a board member yourself.
This way, you can create the changes that you’ve always wanted to see within your community or at least be the catalyst for some change.
So how do you become a director on the HOA board? Well, you’ll have to run for the position like you would for political office.
You’ll have an opponent and have to prove that you’re the better person for the role than your opponent. That means plenty of campaigning, playing an active role within the community, and asking people to vote for you.
The vote will occur during that annual meeting when the HOA board of electors is selected.
If you win, then congratulations! You’re now a director of the HOA board.
Should you not win, you can always try next year. In the meantime, keep putting your name out there and being involved in the HOA board as much as possible.
Being an HOA board director does carry with it responsibilities. You’ll have to attend every board meeting, including those that are off-limits to the wider community.
You’ll review proposals as they come in with the other board members and influence their outcomes. You can change policies, revise rules, and make other improvements that reduce community turnover.
It’s a big duty, but it’s an honor to serve on the HOA board of directors. This is your biggest and best chance to make lasting impacts within your community.
As much as we’ve advocated for addressing problems peacefully and civilly with your HOA, we recognize that even in the best of cases, sometimes matters just can’t be resolved.
You could have bully members on the HOA board that never agree to any of the community’s proposals. You can attend every meeting that you’re allowed to but feel like it’s not making enough of a difference.
You could try to get on the HOA board of electors but lose to your opponent, which means another year of dealing with the same ol’ HOA.
We said before that you can get rid of your HOA board. Well, the only way to do it is to leave the community.
If you are going to move, it should never be a rash decision. You want to plan the move well in advance and save up enough money so you can put a down payment on a house.
That’s right, we recommend you purchase a house.
If you buy or rent another condo, then that means you’ll join another HOA.
Although you might assume that the grass is always greener on the other side, the truth is that you have no idea what you’re walking into.
The new HOA could be better than your old one, but it could just as easily be even more overbearing and unyielding.
Once you own a house, you won’t have an HOA pushing its rules on you. You can leave your holiday decorations out until March if you wanted (not like you should, but you could).
You can paint your home whatever color you want, have as many solar panels as your roof can fit, and hang your laundry inside or outside.
You’ll have a lot more freedom and far fewer frustrations.
HOAs can be the bane of many people’s existences, but how you deal with them matters.
You want to try to keep things civil and be an active, engaged member of your community by attending meetings.
You might bring together your neighbors for a cause or even hire a professional mediator to bolster change. You can also try to get voted onto the HOA board of directors.
Of course, if all else fails and you feel stuck with your HOA, you can always save up and begin looking for a house.