Sunday, July 20, 2014

HOA rules

My HOA adopted new rules on house painting that I was unaware of as I live up North most of the year. I painted my house a color that many houses in the community have similar darker and lighter.
I was sent a violation advising me of the new rule that I would now have to pick one of their colors and then they would have to approve. Long story short, the only notice I got was the violation after the fact. What can I do about it?

Homeowner associations are usually run by poorly educated retired folks.  They are the "chosen ones" and are sure  the world is being populated by idiots who need rules.  As "directors" of an HOA, they are willing to provide the rules, often with little thought as to whether the rules they make are wise or even legal, and often with no thought as to how they will legally enforce
the regulations once they are in place. (Other than by sending a letter of violation)

There are several answers to your questions. I will try to be clear about them and let you pick the answer you like best. I should start by saying I am not a lawyer, and if you are being urged to repaint your brand new paint job, you will have real or potential financial damages and therefore may want to call a lawyer and ask him or her some questions regarding who should pay for you to make
your home a new color.

Color is absolutely subjective and unless you are in a bonafide Historical District, there are very few color schemes that are without some merit. When I lived in New Hampshire, the favorite house colors were tints of the primaries, here in Florida we start with pink and then experiment.

I assume the new paint color rule was effective some time ago but you did not know about it in time, so this is an honest mistake.  It is possible that the HOA made the rule effective immediately, which would give you wiggle room because they have to give all the members fair and realistic notice.
Apparently you were not given appropriate notice. What I mean is they can't honestly expect that people who are planning to paint their homes in the Fall have not already bought
the paint--so there needs to be a period of time between when the rule is passed and when the rule goes into effect, but during which the board must alert members of the the upcoming new regulation. Different HOA's alert their members in different ways, some by letter, some by
email, some by newsletter.  Some require that any exterior work be approved in advance by a committee. Some don't do anything.

I assume that while this home is not your year 'round legal residence, you would prefer to be a good neighbor, and not raise a stink. I am thinking of a person known to me who had a similar issue, and after being alerted to the color problem decided to change his colors to ones acceptable to the HOA, so painted the home one approved color and used a second approved color to paint polka dots all over the home. I was a good paint job and very tidy.  He also made his point, and made the board members the laughing stock of the neighborhood.

Then there is the financial side of this issue.  If there is only a small fine for breaking the rule, it could be worth paying the fine. (And keeping the color)

Nobody wants to get sued--particularly a retired volunteer board of directors of an HOA. That becomes very upsetting, I speak as a former HOA director. If your HOA has any funds in their treasury, you can sue them. That will get their attention.  Their effort to preserve the treasury,
might cause a quick settlement and make the whole thing go away.  Conversely, if the HOA does not have any money in the treasury they won't be able to make you do anything because they can't afford to sue you (when faced with the potential of losing).

My honest opinion is to have your new lawyer write a STRONG letter, suggesting that the HOA was derelict in sharing the information regarding the color rule, (which should have been shared with all the unit owners, any new owners, as well as all the local painters and paint stores.) and while you are anxious to be a good neighbor, you are not willing to repaint your home at this time--however the next time it needs paint you agree to choose one of the approved colors they like. Maybe that will make it go away, but if they are insistent, and not open to your plan, consider looking for satisfaction through the courts. 

Small claims court is limited to a $5,000 suit, but you can bring several counts, meaning you could sue them for $10,000 by making one suit for $5000 for demanding the color change, and perhaps $5000 more for not communicating with the HOA members in a timely fashion.
The judge will probably throw out one of these, but it should get you some action from the HOA

Good luck with all this.
Dane Hahn is a real estate professional serving the Suncoast of Florida from Sarasota Realty Associates. You can reach him at 941-681-0312, or by email at

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