Many neighborhoods have a homeowners association, or HOA for short. HOAs are known for their rules and regulations concerning everything from when you have to pick up your trash cans to what color you can paint your shutters to whether you can add rocking chairs to your front porch. So if you wonder how to legally annoy your HOA and get back at them for some ridiculous rules, read on to learn what you can do without getting in legal trouble.
There are numerous ways that you can legally annoy your HOA. Some strategies include following rules at the last minute, burdening the board administratively by requesting meetings, minutes, and financial statements, or proceeding to do things in conflict with HOA guidelines but are protected legally at the local, state, or state-federal level.
What exactly is an HOA?
Before discussing ways to annoy your HOA, it is important to clarify what an HOA is. In essence, the HOA consists of elected residents. The HOA board members are residents of the neighborhood who develop and enforce the rules for the building, subdivision, or planned community.
The HOA’s rules can vary widely. They can cover seemingly minor things, such as the color of shingles permitted, to larger-scale problems such as parking cars outside or how tall your grass can get.
At the core, most HOAs design their rules around courtesy and respect for others in the neighborhood. In theory, the guidelines aim to keep the neighborhood looking nice, which helps everyone’s property value.
You will also likely be assessed an HOA fee on either a monthly or annual basis. The funds collected go towards community amenities such as tennis courts, swimming pools, and the maintenance of common spaces.
Local HOA rules will vary, but here are six common ones you are likely to find.
No street parking
Your HOA may prohibit parking vehicles on the street overnight. They do this to keep the neighborhood looking nice. However, if you have guests staying over, figuring out where they should park may be a challenge.
No long term guests
There are often strict rules surrounding how long guests are allowed to stay. The idea behind such a rule is a desire to prevent unauthorized renters in a property. Typically, neighborhoods want most homes to be resided in by the actual owners instead of rented out for either short or long-term tenants.
Another common HOA rule relates to renovations on your property. For example, there are often restrictions concerning the paint colors allowed, along with a list of approved options for shingles or elements that affect the visual look of the house.
It is not uncommon for HOA guidelines to require homeowners to get approval from the association before making major cosmetic changes to the property’s exterior.
Some HOAs limit the number of pets that each property can have. There may also be restrictions concerning the breeds not allowed or the size of pets.
There are often HOA guidelines related to the visual appeal of a property. These would be regulations concerning care for the yard, how long you can leave trash cans can be left at the curb, not parking cars in the grass, and other elements related to the visual look of your property.
Remember that one goal of the HOA is to protect the neighborhood’s value by ensuring that things do not get run down. Therefore, the visual appeal of the front yard of each house plays an integral part in the overall look and feel of HOA communities.
There may also be rules concerning the type of decorations on your front porch or in the front yard. These can range from the chairs you can place on your porch to the types of decorations in your yard.
What is at stake if you do not follow the rules?
If your HOA does not provide guidelines to you before purchasing a property, you should ask for them. The HOA’s rules and amenities should be clearly communicated with residents in writing. This way, you know what the HOA permits and prohibits before you buy a property.
If you fail to comply with the HOA rules, you can receive various consequences ranging from notices to public shaming to fines. In some cases, the HOA can even put a lien on your property or revoke your ability to use common amenities like a pool or playground.
Ways to legally annoy your HOA
Make use of loopholes
Since all of the HOA’s rules are in a written document, you should familiarize yourself with them. Read the entire document, front to back, so that you can find loopholes to exploit. This will allow you to annoy your HOA without technically breaking any rules.
If a rule is poorly written or vague, it may be a good one to challenge. For example, the rules likely contain a list of approved colors for outside paint. Unless the document states explicitly that all the walls have to be painted the same color, you could legally paint each wall of your house a different color from that approved list.
While this would annoy your HOA, it would not technically be illegal based on how they wrote the rules.
Before you embark upon this strategy, read and utilize the most up-to-date version of the HOA rules. You do not want to be referencing an outdated document in defense of your actions. An HOA board does not have to consult residents regarding all the changes to the rules and guidelines. However, they have an obligation to inform all residents of the changes.
Point out the board’s flaws
Another strategy to legally annoy your HOA is to keep a keen eye on the activities of the HOA board members. When a board member breaks a rule, you can report it to the entire board.
Additionally, if they do not carry out board duties exactly when they are supposed to according to the guidelines, you can point that out too. An example would be if they are supposed to perform a maintenance function every six months or every other year. You can keep track of whether the activity has occurred and complain to the board if it has not.
Annoying neighbors? Watch for infractions.
The goal of this strategy is not to make your neighbors your enemies. Instead, the idea is to point out flaws in the HOA’s rules and annoy the HOA. This legal strategy will work better if you can anonymously report infractions.
The idea here is to report minor infractions so that the HOA has to investigate and respond. But, unfortunately, this will cause them to have to complete a lot of work, including paperwork. In addition, it may cause your neighbors to grow increasingly frustrated with the HOA, as they are seen as the enemy nitpicking minor infractions.
By repeatedly pointing out minor infractions and bogging the HOA down with investigating and responding, it may actually cause the HOA to decide to get rid of minor or outdated rules. This can be a win for everyone! Therefore, we recommend you focus on the rules that bother you to repeatedly point out when others are not following them to the letter.
Since you are paying HOA dues, you should have a right to see the financial statements. By repeatedly requesting financial statements, you can legally annoy the HOA.
You do not have to take any action based on what you read in them. The goal is just to cause frustration by repeatedly requesting that the documents be produced. In addition, it will likely make the HOA board slightly paranoid, which can add to your enjoyment of annoying the board.
Place satellite dishes on your roof
Did you know that satellite dishes are protected under federal law? Be sure to check your state’s laws before trying this, but radio, TV, and other antennas often cannot be regulated by the HOA.
Since the HOA is tasked with keeping the neighborhood looking nice, they will likely not approve of satellite dishes on roofs. If the HOA challenges you on this, you can call the satellite company for assistance. They may call the HOA president to tell them that rules against satellite dishes are illegal.
Take advantage of holiday displays
An HOA may show some leniency regarding what they allow in your front yard during the holiday season. If so, taking advantage of the season and creating a unique, over-the-top display could ruffle your HOA board’s feathers. However, this would be a legal way to annoy them, as long as you follow their guidelines.
Putting together a gaudy compilation of inflatables, lawn ornaments, and lights may make you the neighborhood talk, but it could also achieve your goal of legally annoying your HOA. So it is not even a matter of whether the decorations are your taste, but rather the satisfaction of getting to decorate however you wish.
Display religious symbols
The United States Constitution protects freedom of religion. Therefore, you can legally put up religious signs or religious statues in your yard to express your beliefs. HOA regulations cannot prohibit you from exercising this right.
Post political signs
Political signs may annoy your HOA, but you have the right to display political symbols. Check your state laws for specifics, but generally speaking, you have the right to display political signs during voting season. Your political affiliations are your own choice, and displaying them via yard signs or banners may annoy your HOA, but it is legal to do so.
Install solar panels
Confirm with your specific state laws, but federal law protects solar panels. Therefore, you can legally install them, regardless of what your HOA says. If you are part of an HOA that is particularly finicky about the outside appearances of houses, this will likely really upset them. They will view the solar panels on your roof as an eyesore. However, if anything is said, point out to them that installing solar panels is protected federally.
Plant protected plants
Your state or locality may have laws permitting the planting of trees or native plants (1). If so, this means you can plant what you wish in your yard, regardless of what the HOA board says about it. To do this, research the protected native plants in your area. Then, even if the HOA board complains, you have a legal recourse as the native plants are protected plants under state law.
Overuse the amenities
Your HOA dues likely provide some amenities. This could be a neighborhood pool, pool house, tennis courts, or picnic area. If you are looking for a way to annoy your HOA legally, try to “overuse” these amenities.
If there are no stipulations outlining a limit on how frequently you can use an amenity, you are free to use it as much as you would like. However, if you use it more than anyone else or regularly book up an amenity that requires a reservation, you will likely annoy your HOA board. However, they can do nothing about it as long as you are not breaking the rules.
Hang your clothes out to dry
In many states, air-drying your clothes is protected legally. It is often viewed as a strategy to help protect the environment and reduce pollution.
You can hang a clothesline in your front yard and dry your clothes outside if your state allows it. This will likely annoy your HOA as it diminishes the neighborhood’s aesthetic. However, if your state laws protect it, there are not much HOA boards can do about it.
Another way to legally annoy your HOA is to ask questions regularly. By routinely asking questions, you can point out problems with the rules as they have written them, and you can also frustrate or annoy your HOA board.
The HOA will likely have regularly scheduled meetings that have a time for open-floor discussion or questions and answers. This is a great opportunity to ask numerous questions.
You could also schedule a meeting with members of the association to ask questions. Not only will this take up their time, but it will also allow you to point out rules or guidelines that are poorly written and express your feelings about some of the rules in place.
If you have a seemingly genuine interest in getting answers to your questions, this tactic will appear innocent. However, if the board responds with hostility or is unable to answer, such reactions will make them look bad, not you.
If there are questions they cannot answer, you can also ask them to find out for you. Then, follow up periodically to remind them that you are still waiting on an answer. This will also let me know that you have not forgotten about your question. This annoyance tactic will take up their time and require them to provide an answer or keep hearing from you.
Follow the regulations at the last minute
If you leave things to the last minute, you can annoy your HOA without breaking the rules. For example, is there a certain time that music has to be turned off each night? Turn it off exactly at that time and never earlier. Are there rules concerning how often you have to mow your grass? Do it on the evening of the last day.
If you deem you a trouble maker and watch you closely, this will likely annoy them. However, you are within the rules, so there is not much they can say about it.
As a member paying money in the form of dues to the HOA, you get a say in who is on the HOA board. If you want to legally annoy your HOA, use your vote strategically and rally your neighbors to try and vote out problematic board members.
If you go door to door or even mail flyers, you can work to remove certain board members and replace them with other community members. Check your HOA guidelines to see if you can offer to vote as a proxy for a neighbor who cannot attend the HOA meetings.
Looking to find other ways to cause trouble, why not look at whether it is legal to sunbathe naked in your backyard?
Other ways to get involved
In addition to employing some of the strategies outlined here to annoy your HOA legally, there are other things you can do to get involved and be a positive force for good in your community.
Research local laws and ordinances
Knowledge is power. Spend time reading local laws. This will give you a leg up if you want to challenge some of the rules of your HOA. If you can locate discrepancies between local laws and HOA guidelines, you have a strong case for ignoring certain HOA rules.
If you just want to annoy your HOA board, you can refuse to comply with the rules. However, if you’re going to impact the entire community positively, you can use your knowledge to work for change. Challenge the rules that conflict with local, state, or federal laws and aim to educate the HOA board on the discrepancies for the benefit of the entire association.
Become an HOA board member
One of the best ways to affect change is to get involved. Instead of just grumbling about your HOA, do something about it. Become an HOA board member.
This will allow you to be involved in decision making and you can share your views and opinions on important issues. You can also use the information you found in your research to affect change from within positively.
Additionally, if you have previously been a vocal opponent of the board and caused headaches by employing many of the legally annoying strategies outlined above, joining the board can also irritate other members. So, again, this is a win-win if you are looking to annoy others and change the way your HOA operates.
Before buying a property in an HOA community, you must review the HOA’s covenants and rules to know what you agree to abide by when you purchase in the neighborhood. Each HOA has its own rules, but there are some common ones that you are likely to see.
An HOA neighborhood can help protect your investment, as it has rules in place to maintain good quality and visual appeal. However, an offending homeowner may quickly find himself in hot water.
The HOA can enforce rules in numerous ways, ranging from a verbal warning to a written notice. In addition, situations can escalate, including fines or even a lien against your property. This is why it is essential to arm yourself with knowledge about both the HOA’s rules and laws and local ordinances.
There are numerous ways to annoy your HOA legally. Some are simple, like requesting HOA statements or attending a board meeting to ask numerous questions. Pointless meetings may also annoy your HOA, but they are not illegal.
Other tactics will take more time to research so that you know you are legally protected even if you conflict with an HOA rule. One such example is if you install satellite dishes or solar panels on your property.
HOA members are not above reproach, so be mindful of when they break the rules so they can be reported too. You can also choose to get involved through more democratic means. For example, you could work with your neighbors to vote out a particularly difficult board member.
Alternatively, you could campaign to get elected to the board. This would allow you to affect change from the inside. Regardless of the method you choose, be sure you are operating within the limits of the law.
(1) – https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/about/native-plants