Can your HOA make you follow rules it doesn’t otherwise enforce?

You probably knew there would be some restrictions on your behaviors when you bought a house in a homeowners association (HOA). Your HOA might provide you with certain amenities or benefits, like access to a fitness facility or other community spaces. The HOA also helps you protect your investment in your home by establishing and then enforcing certain community standards.

For example, an HOA might limit what kind of plants you can grow in your front lawn, what color of siding you can install on your house or even how long you can let your trash bin sit on the curb on garbage pickup days.

When you break the HOA rules, they will take enforcement actions against you. You could face fines or other penalties. Can your HOA punish you for something that they ignore from other homeowners?

Consistent enforcement of the rules is crucial for fairness

HOAs have power that can easily contribute to structural racism and other social issues by maintaining different standards for different residents. To minimize the risk of people abusing that kind of authority, HOA rules typically require consistent enforcement.

If the HOA has long failed to enforce the rule about mowing the lawn, they cannot suddenly decide to start holding just one person accountable for infractions of that rule. An HOA that has historically failed to enforce rules may start doing so, but it should universally enforce the rules. Everyone who violates the rule should face the same penalties.

If the HOA selects certain people for enforcement and ignores other violations, that behavior could provide those facing citations or fines with a defense against those allegations.

How do you fight back against unfair HOA enforcement actions?

When your HOA has targeted you for unfair enforcement, there are different options available to you depending on the details of your circumstances.

Attending an HOA meeting could be one solution, as calling attention to the enforcement actions could lead to HOA reform or a reversal of the fines or penalties assessed against you. Going to court to fight the fines or other actions taken by the HOA could be another. Understanding your rights as someone living in an HOA community will help you stand up for yourself.