Some HOAs have the power to override a permit

StrictlyUrban

Active member
Dec 18, 2023
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I had no idea that it was a possibility until Friday when it happened to me. The city approved my permit to build an addition to our home. The contractor had already started when we received a cease and desist letter from the HOA. I plan to appeal it, but I'm shocked that the HOA has the authority to overrule a city permit like that. That's a lot of power. Is it like that where you live? As an aside, does anyone know how to make an addition more appealing to the HOA governing body?
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I've always avoided HOAs, so I can't speak from first-hand experience, but the fuss could be over the size of the addition, the materials used to create it, or the color that you're intending to paint it. I'm surprised they didn't send you a copy of the rules to highlight which rule you're supposedly breaking.

After you make the changes to allow your project to move forward again, I bet you'll have to obtain another building permit, especially if the changes are significant enough. What a headache! I wish you luck with sorting it out.
 
I had no idea that it was a possibility until Friday when it happened to me. The city approved my permit to build an addition to our home. The contractor had already started when we received a cease and desist letter from the HOA. I plan to appeal it, but I'm shocked that the HOA has the authority to overrule a city permit like that. That's a lot of power. Is it like that where you live? As an aside, does anyone know how to make an addition more appealing to the HOA governing body?
shutterstock_1535919590.jpg
I am surprised you wouldn't have started with your HOA to get approval on the plans before you applied for the permit. Working in the permit industry as well as being on the board for an HOA, it is very clearly stated that exterior projects must be reviewed by the HOA board. It might seem frivolous or that they have too much power, but you also have to ask yourself what you want your neighborhood to look like. Even though your project might be well suited for the area, opening the door for others to do things incorrectly or not in the context of the area, causes much more problems in the future. A lot of power? Well maybe, but in most cases, just like having city codes, there are reasons to keep things in order. I hope you were able to find an agreement with your HOA and finish your project!
 
I had no idea that it was a possibility until Friday when it happened to me. The city approved my permit to build an addition to our home. The contractor had already started when we received a cease and desist letter from the HOA. I plan to appeal it, but I'm shocked that the HOA has the authority to overrule a city permit like that. That's a lot of power. Is it like that where you live? As an aside, does anyone know how to make an addition more appealing to the HOA governing body?
shutterstock_1535919590.jpg
Most jurisdictions usually know ahead of time if HOA approval is needed and will request such before they issue their permit. It's the Homeowner's responsibility to know if their HOA needs to give their approval of such first. And, as a contractor, you should also be aware that HOA approval may be necessary and need to be proactive in assisting the homeowner in obtaining such.
 
HoA rules, deed restrictions and protective covenants are all considered to be private contracts. Government does not enforce them and may not even know they exist in a specific case. They may be more restrictive than local ordinances but may not be less restrictive. Government may issue and probably must issue a permit that complies with local ordinances, even if the permit isn't consistent with HoA or other private restrictions.
 
The HOA will provide guidelines on the design and aesthetic look of the project. The HOA's design review board is there to ensure that the look and feel of the project match the community. Your building permit is reviewed and issued for code compliance and zoning compliance. your HOA will still have some control over the design.

You can make your addition more appealing by scheduling a meeting with the HOA design review board and asking for their review of the project and ideas to ensure all HOA rules are met.

Good Luck.
 
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Unfortunately this is not new news when it comes to HOA's. HOA's have their own aesthetic guidelines and usually require an approval for anything on the exterior. In the municipality where I used to work, the city required the HOA approval letter as part of the project submittal. The city doesn't care what the house looks like but the HOA usually does. The HOA isn't overruling the permit but they are assuring the project meets the community aesthetics and all this is within the communities HOA documents but most people never bother to read them. For example, so communities only allow hardie-plank siding, so you can't use vinyl for an addition. Hopefully you got to do your addition
 
I had no idea that was a thing either. At least where I live we don't have a HOA currently, but I know in some neighborhoods they do have HOAs and are very serious when it comes to what you can and can't do. I know they have their own set of rules that people in the neighborhood have to follow. I would assume this rule is a part of it as they want to keep the area set a certain way.

I think it's dumb to not be able to do work on your home, or add an addition because neighbors need a say so first. I get HOAs have their rules, but sometimes they can be far too overbearing about what a homeowner does in the local area.

I get why HOAs do it, because they want to keep the area a certain way, and certain changes don't match the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood. But, as a homeowner, we should have a bit of freedom to work on our own properties without someone stopping us in our tracks. In this case, I'm glad I'm not part of a HOA or living in a community or neighborhood with one.
 
I am surprised you wouldn't have started with your HOA to get approval on the plans before you applied for the permit. Working in the permit industry as well as being on the board for an HOA, it is very clearly stated that exterior projects must be reviewed by the HOA board.
I did, and it was approved by the HOA board before I applied for the permit. Unfortunately, it took a while for the permit to go through, and during that break, the HOA added a clause that allows neighbors to object to work that will cause unreasonable disruption. That's what got me. Additionally, our HOA contract is multiple pages long and full of legal jargon. They certainly don't make it easy for the average person to understand. It's not worth the hassle at this point. We're going to take the loss, pay the contractor for what he's already done, and move out of this neighborhood when we find something else.
 
Wow! HOAs can really get out of control. In our town large numbers of homes have HOAs, so when we buy, we are careful to review the governing documents and make sure we can abide by them.

I remember one case where the HOA wouldn't allow anyone to leave their garage open more than ten minutes. New owners were sited if they left their garage open for too long even when moving in. One man was so mad that he spent the whole day opening and closing the garage door at ten-minute intervals, just to vex the HOA. Finally, they sold and moved out because they couldn't afford to keep replacing the garage door.
 
Wow! HOAs can really get out of control. In our town large numbers of homes have HOAs, so when we buy, we are careful to review the governing documents and make sure we can abide by them.

I remember one case where the HOA wouldn't allow anyone to leave their garage open more than ten minutes. New owners were sited if they left their garage open for too long even when moving in. One man was so mad that he spent the whole day opening and closing the garage door at ten-minute intervals, just to vex the HOA. Finally, they sold and moved out because they couldn't afford to keep replacing the garage door.
That sounds unbearable to have to go through. I don't get why some HOAs are so aggressive with weird rules like that. If I move to an area, I don't want to be stuck living under such weird and overbearing rules.
Unfortunately this is not new news when it comes to HOA's. HOA's have their own aesthetic guidelines and usually require an approval for anything on the exterior. In the municipality where I used to work, the city required the HOA approval letter as part of the project submittal. The city doesn't care what the house looks like but the HOA usually does. The HOA isn't overruling the permit but they are assuring the project meets the community aesthetics and all this is within the communities HOA documents but most people never bother to read them. For example, so communities only allow hardie-plank siding, so you can't use vinyl for an addition. Hopefully you got to do your addition
Yeah true. I know they get a bad rap usually because of their guidelines and rules. Some HOAs are bad, while some I imagine aren't too bad.
 
That sounds unbearable to have to go through. I don't get why some HOAs are so aggressive with weird rules like that. If I move to an area, I don't want to be stuck living under such weird and overbearing rules.

Yeah true. I know they get a bad rap usually because of their guidelines and rules. Some HOAs are bad, while some I imagine aren't too bad.
the whole HOA thing is exactly why we sold and moved to a traditional neighborhood. We wanted a larger lot and the ability to paint our house whatever we wanted to. The other issue being HOA's have very little oversight, so there are also issues with funds when it comes time to make repairs. Horry County SC is full of these developments with private roads and HOA's and all the horror stories that go with them. We had one development that wasn't active and when it came time to fix the roads they had to petition the county for a special tax district to cover the costs. That's where ours was headed, so we sold and left. Ours was active but didn't have enough reserves to repave but no one wanted to increase fees to cover them
 
We always encourage the property owner to contact their HOA. They all have rules and regulations that planning and permitting can not know or keep up with.
Always start with your HOA -
 
Yeah I have steered clear of most locations with HOAs mainly because of how serious they are with upkeep and the rules of the area. It can often be far too strict and demanding I feel.
the whole HOA thing is exactly why we sold and moved to a traditional neighborhood. We wanted a larger lot and the ability to paint our house whatever we wanted to. The other issue being HOA's have very little oversight, so there are also issues with funds when it comes time to make repairs. Horry County SC is full of these developments with private roads and HOA's and all the horror stories that go with them. We had one development that wasn't active and when it came time to fix the roads they had to petition the county for a special tax district to cover the costs. That's where ours was headed, so we sold and left. Ours was active but didn't have enough reserves to repave but no one wanted to increase fees to cover them
It just sounds like trouble waiting to happen. I almost moved to an area with a heavy HOA presence, but talked my husband out of it since I wanted to move to a place where I could be free to alter or design it however I wanted. Of course after obtaining the required permits and all that fun stuff.

The horror stories I've heard from others who have lived in neighborhoods with an HOA, it's often more trouble than it's worth.

We always encourage the property owner to contact their HOA. They all have rules and regulations that planning and permitting can not know or keep up with.
Always start with your HOA -
Yeah, if you're living in an area with HOA presence, it's best to reach out to them first about your plans. Sometimes an HOA won't allow the requested change. You also don't want to go ahead and do the work before going to them, as it could come back in a form of a fine I imagine.
 
I did, and it was approved by the HOA board before I applied for the permit. Unfortunately, it took a while for the permit to go through, and during that break, the HOA added a clause that allows neighbors to object to work that will cause unreasonable disruption. That's what got me. Additionally, our HOA contract is multiple pages long and full of legal jargon. They certainly don't make it easy for the average person to understand. It's not worth the hassle at this point. We're going to take the loss, pay the contractor for what he's already done, and move out of this neighborhood when we find something else.
Wow...that's really sad to hear, especially if it was an improvement to the area. The other thing I would note would be to get involved with the HOA. Many times, boards and meetings are established and almost no one attends or helps with making decisions. It can be they are only being presented with one side of an argument / need that might make sense at the time, but then is a real burden later. Presenting a case like yours can show why they must govern with flexibility to meet the needs of the community. Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience.
 
I did, and it was approved by the HOA board before I applied for the permit. Unfortunately, it took a while for the permit to go through, and during that break, the HOA added a clause that allows neighbors to object to work that will cause unreasonable disruption. That's what got me. Additionally, our HOA contract is multiple pages long and full of legal jargon. They certainly don't make it easy for the average person to understand. It's not worth the hassle at this point. We're going to take the loss, pay the contractor for what he's already done, and move out of this neighborhood when we find something else.
HOAs seem to have too much power these days. People living in the community shouldn't be treated this way by them.

I like what @MW68 said about getting more involved with your HOA. Air your grievances to them, but also work with them to better your community. Maybe you could even get into the HOA, maybe on the board itself.
 
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