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HOA may have power over exterior of home

Home owners' associations are increasingly important in California communities. They create and adopt regulations that may cover anything from the types of plants allowed in a person's front yard to the amount of time a vehicle can be parked in front of a home. The declaration of covenants governing a home might allow an HOA board to restrict the display of ornaments or objects on the outside of a residence, including restrictions on wreathes, lights or other holiday objects.

Depending on the language of the declaration, it may give the board the right to enforce architectural controls or to create rules regarding the use of the property. Wreathes, crosses, nativity scenes or other religious decorations may generally be restricted without constituting religious discrimination, as long as decorations are limited across the board, i.e., without regard to a particular religion. If the HOA board favors certain religious decorations over others, such action may constitute religious discrimination in some cases.

In a case where an HOA board restricts the placement of benches or chairs outside the home, the board's rules or the declaration of covenants will govern. An individual who have questions about the controls exercised by his or her HOA board may want to consult an attorney. An attorney with experience in real estate law may be able to help by reviewing the relevant HOA documents and providing an interpretation of the rights and obligations enumerated therein.

Most home owners' associations do have the authority to exercise reasonable controls over the placement of decorations or furniture on the exterior of homes. Should the HOA board overstep its authority, an attorney may be able to help by negotiating on behalf of the homeowner or by drafting and filing documents to initiate legal proceedings. An attorney may also be able to state the homeowner's grievances diplomatically via letter and help to secure an amicable solution.

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