The Rise of the Homeowner: New Rights for Property Owners under HOAs

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The Rise of the Homeowner: New Rights for Property Owners under HOAs

If you own a home in Texas or the Brazos Valley there is about a 20% chance that you live under a Homeowners Association, better known as HOAs. If your lifestyle doesn’t match that of the HOA you often feel like a victim. In the words of David Dobs, a homeowner in North Atlanta, “It’s like living under communism — someone gets to dictate every possible thing you do.”

Dobs’ bitterness, however, was sparked by something of a personal matter. The HOA in their Atlanta suburb denied their request to install Solar Panels on the roof of their house. Neighborhood officials apparently thought the panels would look “out of place” and “might lower home values” in the community.

This particular community mandated everything from grass height to the coloring of roof tiles: a Homeowners Associations that seemed to value conformity over ecological awareness. Who would’ve thought?

For those who don’t understand the power of Homeowners Associations, it might be helpful to mention that the U.S. court system has upheld the enforcements of HOAs over and over, neglecting the rights of individuals to support the covenant-controlled communities. Even in the midst of government support (offering tax breaks to homeowners who installed solar panels on their roofs), HOA restrictions were upheld by local court systems.

However, with the growing convenience of solar technology, along with lowered costs and government subsidizing, the conflict between HOAs and government energy efforts have lately come to a head. And the result? (Spoiler Alert!) Basically, the government tends to win in these circumstances.

New rights have been granted to property owners under HOAs in Texas. For homeowners like Dobs, looking to implement new age technology into their homes for independent energy production, this is the long awaited sweet taste of vengeance: mainly because one of the first rights given to property owners within HOAs is the right to install solar energy devices on the property.

A corresponding right involves the freedom to install roof shingles that are wind and/or hail resistant, energy efficient, or solar generating. Thanks to these new rights, citizens like David Dobs, free from the overly oppressive demands of conformative HOAs, now have the federally-backed right to make their roofs glimmer with reflective solar panels. No more living under communism for ecologically ‘green’ activists.

For those who don’t find reflective solar panels non-conformist enough, the rights for homeowners to flag their eco-friendly lifestyles went even farther. Property owners are now permitted to install rain harvesting devices to gather their own, renewable source of clean water, regardless of how hideous the HOA claims them to be.

If any are unfamiliar with these devices, they are actually not all that imposing. At their most basic, they really only need to be an open barrel in the middle of a yard. But more efficient techniques have developed a kind of runoff system from the roof that channels the rain water down pipes into large, temperature controlled containers. No more imposing than the average drain, really (except for the barrel at the end of it).

The new rights designated for property owners under the fellowship of a Homeowners Association, however, are not limited to the private sponsoring and implementation of energy production. There are actually a few other rights for property owners that disallow HOAs from intervening. For instance, certain religious items are now allowed to be displayed at the entrance of property without HOA intervention.

The right states “certain” religious items may be allowed because particular ones, such as the symbol of a swastika (which was a Hindu symbol for “to be good” long before Nazism corrupted it) and other suggestive or graphic images would be offensive and infringing upon the welfare of others.

The new Texas law mandates that all home-owning members within an HOA have the right to fly a U.S., Texas, or any military flag outside their home without infringement by their governing Association. While this one isn’t as big a shocker, it’s still an agreeable freedom that most find surprising wasn’t mandated long ago.

It would seem after recent years of conflicts with the overly oppressive powers of Homeowners Associations that the strength and authority of the HOA is gradually diminishing. These last recent rights granted to property owners have been only the tail end of a series of legislation within Texas that is handing the power over from the association to the individual homeowner.

Texas is steadily becoming a state that recognizes and appreciates the freedom and individuality of its homeowners and grants them the right the step outside of the conventional, no matter how large of a ‘sore thumb’ their property ends up being for the surrounding community. That is, so long as their eccentricities prove to be ecologically beneficial, religiously motivated, or simply patriotic.

If you are thinking of purchasing a Bryan or College Station home be SURE to review the HOA documents PRIOR to purchasing. a good Realtor will help make sure you get a copy so you will KNOW that your lifestyle matches that of the regulations you are agreeing to follow.


Susan Hilton

CENTURY 21 Beal, Inc.

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