Owning Your Home Doesn’t Mean Absolute Freedom

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Did you recently become a homeowner for the first time?

Are you expecting to move relatively soon?

In either case, you’ve most likely gathered as much information as possible.

After all, this is/was a huge step for you.

No more worrying about what to do when the rental lease comes due.

An end to worrying if the lease payments will increase each year.

No more packing and unpacking during yet another move.

You have finally decided to set roots and make some lucky place home.

You may have been warned about the hidden costs of owning a home.

Stuff like insurance, maintenance, upkeep, etc.

But did anyone tell you that you may still have someone to answer to regarding what you do to your new property?

This may come as a complete shock to some people, especially those who have never owned a home before.

It may even come as a shock to those who are seasoned homeowners as well.

The thing that many people don’t realize is:

You Can’t Do Whatever You Want To Your Home

Large New Houses in New Development
Just because you own your home, you can’t always do whatever you please to it.

You’re probably thinking to yourself:

How is that possible? Are you nuts? How can anyone take you seriously when you write stuff like that? Of course I’m in control of what I do. It’s my home that I pay for, no one can tell me what I can or cannot do to it!

You are justified in your reaction if this is the case, but that doesn’t change anything.

You may very well have to answer to another party when you want to make changes to certain aspects of your new (or old) place, even if you own it free and clear.

So who could you possibly have to answer to?

Homeowners Associations Limit Your Control

Busy House Painter Painting the Trim And Shutters of A Home.
If you live in a community with a Homeowners association, you have to get your exterior paint colors approved before moving forward with the paint job.

When you purchase a house in an area governed by a homeowners association, you must sign a contract with the association stating that you understand and will abide by their rules.

This means that you have to get approval for any change in the outward appearance of the home.

If you want to paint your home, you better check with the board so you can choose from the approved color palette.

Want to put up a satellite dish?

You better check with the board to see where it can be placed.

If you need a new roof, you have to keep the same style and color arrangement that matches the exterior paint.

The same goes for the driveway; you can’t stain or change the colors that don’t match their guidelines.

Thinking about painting the exterior?

You better check with your HOA to see what paint colors you’re required to use and on what part(s) of your home.

If you live in a condo, it goes even further.

You cannot even change the interior structure such as re-configuring a kitchen or bathroom without first going through the board for approval.

Even something as simple as window treatments probably has to be a specific outward-facing design/color.

You also need to be careful of policies about things like storm shutters and other protective measures.

Some HOAs have rules that outline how long you can leave up hurricane shutters after the threat has passed.

Perhaps it has something to do with ugly silver things covering windows or maybe it’s the potential safety hazard they represent, but if you don’t abide by this particular rule, you face the chance of fines.

Take for example the community Isles At Weston in Weston, FL which specifically states that hurricane shutters need to be taken down within 72 hours of a storm passing on its list of FAQs (item 32).

But, even if you don’t live in an area with an association, let’s not forget about…

Your Freedom Is Further Limited By City/Town Laws

This is something people rarely think of.

In reality, they have a set of rules that are independent of the associations.

One such example is landscaping.

Let’s take an innocuous thing like trees.

Yes, trees!

Some cities will require you to have a specific number of trees on your property and in specific locations.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s the link to the City of Sunrise, FL guide titled “Information for Single Family Homeowners“.

My parents got a notice from the city zoning board (or whoever it was) stating that the tree they had removed needed to be replaced.

Not only that but two that were missing from the back of the property needed replacing as well (which is funny because they never had any back there).

The letter told them what kind to buy and even gave them a list of possible places to shop.

Of course, the city wouldn’t respond to their question of what other course of action they could have taken when the tree’s roots got so big that they started breaking through the sidewalk (since that is city property after all).

You also need to hassle with permits for certain structural improvements and appliance installations which not only cost money but take time too.

Then there is my personal favorite.

The city I live in, Coral Springs, had a contract with a tiny little cable provider called Advanced Cable Communications, which only served two cities in the entire South Florida area for years.

This deal gave Advanced Cable exclusive provider rights to the two cities, eliminating the choices residents had when it came to cable television or internet service.

Even worse, for someone like me, whose condo doesn’t face the “right direction”, satellite TV was not an option, completely taking away any choice of television service.

You Need Permission To Rent or Sell Your Home

Red for sale sign hanging on a white wooden cross post in front of a attached single-family homes
You might not be able to sell or rent your home to whomever you want. If you live in certain communities, those people must get approval before finalizing the deal.

Here’s something else to consider when buying a home in a HOA-run community.

If you ever decide to rent it out or even move, you don’t have the autonomy to do so on your own.

Many new-construction communities & buildings require you to own the home for a set period of time before it can be rented out.

Many, for instance, have a rule that you cannot rent the home for a year after purchase.

And even when you reach those time limits, you still need permission.

You have to go through the HOA for them to approve the potential renter’s application.

The HOA also has to approve any potential buyer if you decide you want to sell.

Wrapping UP

I know this may have come as a shock to some (or many) of you.

You probably thought owning your own home meant you could do as you please when you please.

It is yours after all!

I regret to be the bearer of all of this bad news, but I wanted you to be informed before you make the biggest purchase of your life.

I know it’s sucky information but it’s the cold, hard truth 😔

Your Turn

Did you know about all of these things? Have you ever been in a situation where you did something to your home only to have to redo it because of your Homeowners Association (or Condo Board)? Would you ever pass on a home that was perfect except for the fact that it was in an HOA-run area?


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