Home renovations, especially those to your home’s exterior, often require approval from your homeowner's association. Image source: Home Depot
Even if you own your house or condominium, the decision to renovate it may not be entirely up to you. Depending on the covenants and bylaws imposed by your HOA’s board of directors, you may need HOA approval before you begin any home improvement projects.
While this may feel like an infringement on your property rights, you most likely agreed to these rules when you moved in. It’s also possible you’ve benefited from them without realizing it. HOA rules keep common property clear, maintain tranquility, and protect property values, so the charm of your neighborhood and the value of your home are partially due to your HOA.
Additionally, your HOA might have the power to forcibly halt and reverse renovations that haven’t gone through the approval process, so it’s essential to get your HOA’s permission before buying construction materials or starting your bathroom remodel. Keep reading to learn how to get your HOA board’s approval for your home renovation and what you should do if it gets denied.
On this page
- What is an HOA?
- How to request HOA approval for renovations
- Which renovations require HOA approval?
- Which renovations do not require HOA approval?
- What happens if you do not request HOA approval for renovations?
- What to do if your HOA denies your approval
What is an HOA?
A homeowner’s association, usually abbreviated as “HOA,” is a council of homeowners who set rules and regulations for their neighborhoods. The board members of an HOA are usually elected by other residents in the community, though sometimes HOAs are partially run by management companies.
Ideally, HOAs ensure life runs smoothly in their neighborhoods. They can settle spats between neighbors, hire professionals to keep the streets clean, set quiet hours, and maintain amenities like clubhouses and community gardens. HOAs also meet with their communities to discuss problems, vote on solutions, draft governing documents, and decide how to spend money.
The downside is that HOAs charge homeowners monthly fees. These HOA fees are how the board funds community upkeep and governance.
What are CC&Rs?
Your HOA’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) are the rules that every member of the community has to live by. Depending on what is spelled out in an HOA’s CC&Rs, residents may not be allowed to paint their front doors, park on the street, or leave anything on their lawns.
These are just a few examples. HOA management can more or less make any rules they like as long as most of the community agrees to them and they don’t break any laws.
How to request HOA approval for renovations
The correct process for requesting approval depends on your HOA. Most HOAs require residents to submit a specific request form listing the details of their renovations while others may just require a simple letter or email. Reach out to your property manager or an HOA board member to ask for help navigating your HOA community’s unique process.
Some HOAs also have a set list of contractors they allow residents to recruit. This might be helpful if you’re unsure who to hire for, say, your kitchen renovations. If you already had someone in mind, though, you may not be allowed to work with them.
Which renovations require HOA approval?
Not all renovations require HOA approval, though exactly which ones do will depend on your HOA. Every set of CC&Rs is a little different, so you should carefully read yours before making big plans.
As a general rule, your HOA will want to know about any project that will change how your home looks. Additionally, jobs that will involve large trucks, lots of mess, or lots of noise should be run by the board. These are some renovations that typically require HOA approval:
- Repairs or changes to the exterior walls of your home
- Room additions
- Fencing installation
- Extensive plumbing or electrical work
- Flooring replacement
- Roofing and gutter replacement
- Landscaping your front yard
As you can see, most of the renovations that typically require approval involve changing your home’s exterior. The reason is that anything you do to your home’s exterior can also impact the value of your neighbors’ real estate. But don’t forget that some changes to your home’s interior may also require prior HOA approval.
Which renovations do not require HOA approval?
Small-scale internal renovations don’t usually require HOA approval, though your HOA might have some special restrictions around even small, in-house projects.
Here are a few examples of renovations HOAs don’t typically regulate:
- Painting or adding wallpaper to interior walls
- Changing your interior light fixtures
- Updating your counters and cabinets
- Landscaping your backyard
- Replacing showers, sinks, and other fixtures
Again, just because most HOAs don’t require submission of approval for projects like these doesn’t mean yours doesn’t. Carefully review your CC&Rs before planning even these small jobs. If in doubt, it’s better to ask permission than for forgiveness.
What happens if you do not request HOA approval for renovations?
You may not like all of your HOA’s CC&Rs, but you have to live by them. If your HOA finds out about a renovation it didn’t approve, it has the authority to halt the project and force you to reverse the work at your expense. In some cases, violations and noncompliance can result in hefty fines and lawsuits.
Your HOA might even be able to put a lien on your property which could end in foreclosure. This isn’t legal in every state, though.
While you may think you can sneak an extensive kitchen remodel past your HOA, it’s unlikely. Even mid-size interior renovations can require large crews, big trucks, several hours of loud work, and a whole lot of mess. With all of this in mind, it’s really much better to go through the proper channels to request HOA approval.
What to do if your HOA denies your approval
Your application for HOA approval may get denied for various reasons. But denial usually comes with feedback on how you can modify your project to turn the “no” into a “yes.”
Your HOA might require you to adjust your timeline, change the hours your crew will work, or hire a different contractor. If the changes work for you, make them and resubmit your application or pitch some alternate solutions to the problems your HOA brought up in their denial. Keeping this back-and-forth respectful is the best way to get your HOA’s approval in the end.
Sometimes, though, your HOA won’t approve a project no matter when you do it or who you hire. If this is the case, you may just have to give up on your project.
You don’t always have to lie down and take your HOA’s decision, though. Some HOAs try to overstep the boundaries of their authority and micromanage a resident's real estate. If you think this is happening to you, lawyer up. Taking your HOA to court is expensive and it might not even go your way, but it’s your only recourse when negotiations fail.
Get in touch with your HOA about remodeling your home
Every HOA has different rules regarding renovations, so you need to get familiar with the CC&Rs your HOA has laid out before planning any large projects. Otherwise, you could spend thousands of dollars on a remodel you’ll ultimately have to undo, or—even worse—get in legal trouble for.
Avoid either of these situations by learning what your HOA’s approval process is and following the rules. If your HOA’s regulations are unclear, talk to a member of the board for clarification. It seldom hurts to ask, and it can hurt you not to.