Being part of a Homeowners Association (HOA) comes with a long list of benefits. The Community Associations Institute estimates as many as 65.2 million U.S. residents lived in 328,500 HOA communities in 2013. From neighbors who care about the landscaping and neighborhood to shared community amenities, group activities and heightened security, HOAs offer several lifestyle perks. HOAs do come with strict guidelines, however, and the rules could affect and limit any renovations you'd like to take on at your property.

 

Interior Renovation

While some HOA boards normally require that they be consulted prior to something as simple as a fresh paint job in your bedroom, most boards don't have a problem with minor interior renovation—as long as you adhere to the rules of your community guidelines. For instance, you can renovate your kitchen floor, but only if the unit below you does not get disturbed in any way. Major renovations, like making structural changes, changing plumbing, or shifting the layout of your bathroom usually requires approvals. These restrictions should be clearly outlined in the covenants, conditions and restrictions of your HOA.

Exterior Renovation

HOAs usually have rules and regulations about the exterior of the community, including:

  • Plants and trees
  • Flagpoles
  • Sign boards
  • Fences
  • Ornamental decoration
  • Exterior additions to the main structure like columns or domes
  • The color of your property
  • Changes to decks
  • Patios and porches
  • Antennas and satellite dishes

Minor alterations to the exterior of your property may be allowed after board approval. This is mainly to ensure that safety, aesthetics and convenience are all being adhered to. Also, most communities often pride themselves on their neat, uniform appearance.

Ensuring a Smooth Renovation Process

If you don't stick to the rules, your HOA board can have your renovation changed or removed and then charge you the cost of removal. It's important to avoid fines or unnecessary trouble and go about it the smart way.

Seek the approval of your community's board before beginning a project. A good way to start is to submit your plans to the board well in advance and make sure they're as complete as possible to avoid later arguments about new additions or last minute changes. Prior notice and reasonable discussion will improve the odds for your approved project.

Attend board meetings and stay up-to-date with bylaws to not only stay informed of what other residents are saying, but to also have a voice in community decisions. Your contribution could make the board see proposals in a new light. You could also apply to volunteer on your HOA board and actually play a part in policy-making. A 2012 survey showed that approximately two million residents volunteer on HOA boards annually.

Lastly, befriend your neighbors. Very often, neighbors are the ones who complain about minor renovation activity, resulting in a fine being issued to you. But if you get friendly with them, chances are, they'll approach you before going to the board.

Quiet, smooth and hassle-free renovations can be carried out, even changes that call for you to rent heavy equipment, as long as you're smart about it. So go ahead, look forward to that herb garden and porch you've always dreamed of. As long as it's not upsetting other residents, threatening security or sticking out like a sore thumb, your way ahead should be clear.