I know of no one living in an HOA community who doesn’t have a horror story. HOAs also seem to have a special knack for turning reasonable human beings into petty people. Still, sometimes a bit of legal pettiness can be cathartic enough to allow us to continue living under the tyranny—I mean governance—of an HOA.
- Know the rules
- Ask questions
- Catch them breaking rules
- Get HOA statements
- Get meeting minutes
- Install satellite dish
- Install solar panel
- Display religious symbols
- Display polical signs
- Plant native plants
- Dry clothes outside
- Abuse amenities
- Leave things last minute
- Have lots of guests
- Join the board
- Overthrow the board
- Involve lawyers
1. Know Contract & Rules Like the Back of Your Hand
Knowledge is power when dealing with an HOA, so make sure that you read the entire contract. Understand all of the rules and where they apply.
Reading the contract and covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), you might be able to find loopholes that you can use to annoy your HOA board members without actually breaking any rules.
Some rules are not well-written or are vague enough that you can interpret them openly and still be either compliant or equipped with a reasonable defence.
For instance, you could paint every outside wall a different “approved” color. This would annoy the HOA, but you wouldn’t be technically breaking any rules unless it specifies that all walls must be the same color.
Always make sure that you have a copy of the latest CC&Rs so that you are not fighting with outdated ammo.
Your HOA does not have to consult the residents regarding all changes that they make to the CC&Rs but they do have to inform you of any changes, so you should know when to request the new copies.
2. Ask a Million (Legitimate) Questions
When you know the rules, another tactic that you can employ is to schedule meetings with some members of the HOA and ask if they could clarify all the vague or poorly-written terms of the CC&Rs.
Take a keen interest approach so that any hostility they display if they are not able to answer is completely unjustified and makes them look bad.
If they cannot answer, ask them to please find out for you and then follow up regualarly to let them know you are still eagerly awaiting their response and haven’t forgotten.
3. Wait for Them To Break Their Own Rules
If you know all the rules you might be able to catch a member of the HOA board breaking protocol and then you can report this infraction to the whole board!
Your approach should be innocence itself, even if it’s clearly pretend innocence:
“Gosh, I’m sorry to have to be the one to point it out, but so-and-so was doing this, and I really feel like we all need to uphold the rules of the HOA in order to all benefit from the institution.”
Another tactic that falls into this category is you can make sure that all of the HOA duties are carried out on time.
For example, if they are supposed to organize for the external walls to be painted every two years, then you can bring it up with them if they have not done it on time.
4. Become the Neighborhood Whistle-Blower
With this one, you have to be careful not to make enemies of your allies; you may need to rally the neighborhood if you are after making big changes.
However, if your goal is simply annoying the HOA (and maybe one or two of the most pretentious of your neighbors), then go ahead and start reporting minor infractions. If you can, report them anonymously.
Your HOA will have to address each infraction. This has a trifold effect.
Firstly, it will give them a whole lot of admin and paperwork to get through.
Secondly, it may make your neighbors as fed up with the HOA as you are, which will be uncomfortable for the HOA.
Thirdly, the HOA may decide to abolish certain minor or outdated rules, so target the ones that are bothering you.
5. Get Copies of HOA Statements
Furthermore, you can demand copies of your HOA’s financial statements. You, as a homeowner, are paying money into the neighborhood “kitty”, so you have a right to your HOA’s financial statements.
The best part about this scheme is whether or not you actually read them, you are bound to annoy your HOA board just by asking for them.
At the very least, it will make your board a little more paranoid.
But if you do want to read through them, you can put together a few follow-up questions and request further information on where the money is going.
Perhaps bring up examples of where you think the money is not doing what it should. For example, there is money set aside for maintenance, but all the exterior walls of the units are looking worn and faded.
6. Ask for Copies of the Meeting Minutes
If your HOA is particularly fond of meeting, then ask for copies of every meeting’s minutes.
This is particularly useful if they keep scheduling meetings that residents have to attend. These are usually on a weekday evening or a weekend, which eats into your personal time.
The HOA might be less inclined to hold pointless meetings if they know you are going to come knocking at their door for a copy of the minutes.
You can also be that person who asks a lot of questions or brings up some additional points during the meetings, which would then need to be recorded.
Try asking for a printed-out copy of the meeting minutes instead of an electronic one, just to make it a little more admin-heavy for them.
7. Install Satellite Dishes on Your Roof
You can really get under your HOA’s skin by adding some state-protected devices on your roof, like satellite dishes. The protection of these will vary by state, so make sure you know your state’s laws before you get any dishes.
Whether radio, TV, or other antennas, it’s illegal for an HOA to regulate satellite dishes because they are protected by federal law; however, your HOA will likely hate you having satellite dishes on your roof.
If your HOA has rules against them, call your satellite company for help intervening with the HOA. They might just call up the HOA president and explain that their rules are illegal.
8. Put Solar Panels on Your Roof
Many states protect a homeowner’s right to install a ‘solar energy system’ or something similar, and although the exact state law terminology varies, it means you can get away with something your HOA isn’t going to like.
Some states that have these protections include Oregon, Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
9. Put Up Religious Symbols
Your HOA cannot legally discriminate against religion in general or single out a specific religion, so if you want to annoy them, try putting up religious symbols around your yard.
The Fair Housing Act protects against HOA rules that target all or specific religions. So, put out a nativity scene, a cross, or any other religious symbol.
There have been cases where HOAs have tried to fine households for displaying religious signs and symbols on their porch, but you have the right to fight back and if it does end up in court (worst case scenario), you have precedent on your side and are likely to win.
10. Display Political Signs (Carefully!)
Additionally, as a U.S. Citizen, you have a right to share your political views. However, your HOA community may still have rules for displaying political affiliations.
Even if they do, there is usually a period during the voting season where you are allowed to display political signs.
You can check your HOA’s CC&Rs for when those dates are and, if you are trying to really annoy your HOA board, go crazy with your political signs during that time.
11. Plant Native Plants
Some states have protected plants that no HOA can remove, even if your front yard starts looking like a weed garden. This trick will depend on your state, and you’ll have to search for a list of your state’s protected plants.
You can plant these protected plants wherever you like in your yard, and likely really annoy your HOA.
Here’s an example of someone in Texas who planted wildflowers and was given a warning by their HOA.
Make sure you plant the right types of flowers and educate your board if needed.
12. Dry-Line Clothing
Often HOAs want to ban clotheslines because they are not the prettiest things to see outside your home. In fact, according to some counts, over half of HOAs restrict or ban clotheslines.
However, dry lining clothing saves money, protects the environment by reducing pollution, and extends the life of your laundry. So, over a dozen states protect hanging clothes outside to dry, including California, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Main, Maryland, and Vermont.
If your HOA has an illegal ban on hanging clothing, then you can annoy them by bringing it to their attention. If they fight back, you may need to get a lawyer involved to protect your rights.
However, in this case, the law is on your side, so worst case scenario you have a court case that ends up setting a precedent in your state.
13. Abuse The Amenities
Many HOA communities have nice perks like pools and spas, tennis courts, fitness centers, and playgrounds (which you pay for).
You have access to these as a resident, and the HOA is responsible for upkeep. The HOA might have certain hours for when these amenities are open, and some common areas require reservations.
However, most of the time you can still technically follow the rules while abusing these amenities.
For instance, make reservations for the common areas as many days as your HOA allows. Invite friends over to enjoy them with you (if allowed) and host a party.
If you do this frequently enough, your HOA is sure to be annoyed.
14. Leave Everything to the Last Minute
If your music has to be turned off by a certain time, then turn it off as the clock strikes.
If you are required to cut your lawn every x number of days or when it reaches a certain length, then wait until the last moment to do it; when your grass hits that critical height, or in the evening of the final day.
This will really annoy your HOA if they are the petty kind or if they have flagged you as a “trouble-maker”, who should be watched closely.
The music and lawn length are just examples. You can take every deadline or timeline and push it to the last, but you do have to make sure that you will meet the deadlines, so put contingencies in place.
Furthermore, I would not recommend leaving fee payments to the last minute as accidentally defaulting on your payments can have serious consequences.
15. Aim for the Maximum Guest Limit Every Time
Make sure you are absolutely sure of all the rules regarding the number of guests you can have over at a time, when they have to leave by, how long they can stay if they are not just day visitors, etc.
If you are allowed a certain number of guests at a time, then stick to that number, but have an almost constant stream of friends and family over.
Most HOAs have rules about long-term guests, but if you have a friend who is keen to help you annoy the HOA, then invite them to stay for this exact period of time. If there are no limits on how often you can have a long-term guest over, then you can invite the next person over once the first person leaves.
To make it even more annoying for your HOA, you can pop them a letter informing them of the person coming to stay (even if notification is not a requirement), and assure them that you are going to abide by all the rules and they will be out within the proper term.
Furthermore, you can add that you have furnished your guest with a copy of all the rules that would apply to them while they stay. Incidentally, it is probably in your best interests to do this, so that they do not upset all your carefully laid plans of annoyance.
16. Break it Down from the Inside
If you can’t beat them, join them.
You can run to be on the board of directors for your HOA, which will give you a little more power in negotiating with them.
One annoyed neighbor says they joined the board just to redline all the rules and point out everything outdated or vague. Their HOA board was not happy, but the resident got their point across.
17. Try to Disband or Vote out the HOA
If nothing else is working, as a member of the HOA community you have a right to vote against your board members when an election rolls around.
It’s going to take some effort, and you’ll need to win over your neighbors, but if you can get enough neighbors who are also fed up with the HOA to back you, then you can make change with your votes.
In some cases, you can even offer to vote as a proxy for your neighbors.
To rally support, try going door to door or mailing flyers.
18. Bring In A Lawyer
Worst case scenario, you may need to get a lawyer involved to fight for your rights. If you cannot solve problems with your HOA board, the next step is to involve a lawsuit in civil court.
However, court cases are expensive and cost you even if you win. But your HOA will probably divide their lawsuit expenses amongst you and your neighbors as a special levy.
You can just start with seeking legal advice.
HOA rules are controlled by your state’s law, and every state is different. A lawyer will help you navigate the law and determine if you have a case or not.
In some of the scenarios mentioned above, HOA rules are illegal, and your board just needs to update the rules. In other cases, there is no precedent, and your lawsuit would set the future precedent.
But if you do want to beat your HOA in court or in general, make sure to keep everything in writing, know the rules yourself, and remain as kind as you can. This will help you to advance your cause and will be advantageous if you do end up going to court.
Additionally, you need to keep paying your dues so that you do not build up late fees and fines.
If you aren’t quite ready for battle, then you should at least know what your HOA is not allowed to do. You can learn more about this in my article on Unenforceable HOA Rules.