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New homeowner seeks legal advice after HOA changes its rules: 'Do they have a right to come after me?'

"If it was approved previously and [the] rule came out after that, they can't make you change it."

"If it was approved previously and [the] rule came out after that, they can't make you change it."

Photo Credit: iStock

Dealing with HOAs when trying to make changes to your property can be tricky, with some rules overly strict and even counter-productive.

But when an HOA changes its rules regarding something on your property that was present before you even moved into it, it's understandable that some would fear repercussions from often heavy-handed organizations.

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One Virginia resident had one such concern and took to Reddit to ask for some advice. 

"Moved into a house about a year ago that had solar installed," they began. "They are blue with aluminum frames. New solar rules just came out which basically say has to match roof color and [frames] as well."

"Do they have a right to come after me or is this considered unreasonable?"

The Redditor was most concerned about the costs if they were required to remove the panels, especially since they had little to do with the initial installation. But many commenters were hopeful that they wouldn't have to resort to this measure.

"If it was approved previously and [the] rule came out after that, they can't make you change it - you are grandfathered," one user said.

"Grandfathering" typically means that any rule that was once permitted should remain in place. So, in this case, if the solar panels were previously approved on the property by the HOA, they should be able to stay with no issues.

That probably doesn't set the mind of this resident at ease, though. HOAs have earned a reputation for confusing and detrimental conditions that homeowners need to abide by. 

For example, one Texas resident received a letter from a law firm detailing how the HOA demanded they remove a native lawn, as it didn't comply with the local area and they didn't receive permission from the governing body.

That's despite the fact the xeriscaped yard would have benefitted the resident and the local area, as the drought-resistant lawn would have been able to thrive in Texas' harsh summer conditions and improve biodiversity in the community.

In this case, if the resident is asked to remove the solar panels, that sets a precedent that other residents cannot add a money-saving feature to their property that can also help reduce energy pollution purely because the color doesn't conform to local standards.  

But HOAs shouldn't be considered a completely unreasonable council that cannot be negotiated with. By clearly spelling out the benefits your intended change will bring for your property and the homes of other residents, you might be able to deliver meaningful change that can make a real difference in your and your neighbors' quality of life. 

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