Homeowners associations (HOAs) come with pros and cons. Typically, they are made up of elected board members who oversee an original agreement new homeowners receive when they buy property in the neighborhood. The board collects dues, maintains common areas, issues notices for non-compliance and levies fines. HOAs can retain the value of a home because the surrounding neighborhood must meet certain standards. However, they can also be limiting and controlling of what you do with your own property.

 Some HOA rules are pretty straightforward, such as keep your lawn well-maintained, grass below so many inches, no RVs or boats parked in view, and trash receptacles hidden when not at the curb. Other rules may be quite surprising to new homeowners. Here are some to watch out for so you don’t violate regulations and wind up with fines.

Paint Color Limitations

Angi estimates the average homeowner spends about $3,146 to paint the outside of a house. When you first move in, you might be excited to choose that bold blue you always dreamed of for your trim. However, check your HOA agreement carefully — some associations limit homeowners to a list of preapproved shades. Others require board approval before you can make any exterior changes.

Mailbox Rules

When you think of maintaining your home value and being a good neighbor, the mailbox you choose may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Everyone having the same size, color, style and material mailbox keeps the neighborhood uniform.

For example, Grove HOA residents use a certain size metal box painted a dark hunter green. They even clarify the type of post, measurements and paint finish.

Fees Due

People sometimes buy into a neighborhood with an HOA and pay a small annual fee for common area upkeep. Over time, as boards come and go, members present new ideas and may raise dues. One of the biggest HOA disputes is over collection and nonpayment issues. New homeowners should make sure any past HOA fees are paid in full before closing on a home.

While you might not legally be liable, starting off with an argument over who owes what may not be the friendliest approach. If fees still seem unfair, you can approach the board about a change, or run for the board and present changes that make more sense.

Holiday Decorations

Although they might not directly impact home value, leaving holiday decorations up months after the day may violate HOA rules. Be aware of any conditions addressing outside decor, as you might also be limited in what types of displays you can use. Some stricter boards might ban blow-up yard ornaments or anything but white lights.

If such restrictions seem over the top, think twice about buying a home inside an HOA with extensive regulations. You have a right to ask your realtor for a copy of the association’s rules before making an offer.

Community Space Upkeep

HOA communities cover around 53% of houses in the United States and about 4,000 new HOAs form annually. Thus, common areas are very popular and most associations cover their upkeep. They might hire lawn maintenance for the entry, plant flowers in the spring and maintain a neighborhood park.

Paying fees to keep the entire area looking nice saves you the time and effort of taking a turn doing the work. For example, the Covered Bridge Estates HOA maintains a clubhouse, parking, billiards room, exercise room, tennis and basketball courts and pool. All residents split the cost and benefit from the amenities. However, a board that fails to hire the right people to maintain spaces might create a lot of resentment.

Business and Rental Restrictions

If you’re a small business owner or plan to rent your home, be aware that many HOAs prohibit these two things. You might be able to freelance from home if no one visits your residence, but you won’t be able to run a daycare, ship items regularly, or have delivery trucks coming and going.

 Many HOAs state no renting, so be aware you may have to find a buyer in a tight economy. People who move frequently or are in the military should beware.

Maintain Home Value Reasonably

If the HOA rules are ones you disagree with, look for a house in a different neighborhood. An HOA can be beneficial, but some covenants are too restrictive for families and those with hobbies. Look for a less stringent set of requirements in nearby neighborhoods. A well-versed real estate agent is your best source for finding the perfect home with an association that matches your living style.