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Homeowners brainstorm ways to get around HOA restrictions: ‘You see so many stories of sneaky HOAs that go looking for violations’

“You can put up a REALLY good plan and show it to your board for a waiver.”

"You can put up a REALLY good plan and show it to your board for a waiver."

Photo Credit: iStock

One homeowner hoped to fly under the radar with a stealthy greenhouse.

“Does anyone know what tips I should use to either hide a greenhouse, or at least convince the HOA to allow them?” they asked in a post in r/gardening. “The rules specify that if you have a greenhouse or shed that is able to be seen from the road, you will be fined.”

Greenhouses are an incredible tool for gardening. They provide a warm, humid environment where you can start plants much earlier than usual in the spring, keep them healthy later in the fall, or even grow species from hotter climates that wouldn’t normally survive in your area. This can help you improve your harvest, saving more money on produce in the long run.

But HOAs have stood in the way of garden-loving homeowners for decades. Despite the health, financial, and environmental benefits of gardening, especially in how it eliminates the need to expend fuel to ship the produce to your home, many HOAs are more concerned with making the neighborhood look uniform. That often means placing severe restrictions on what residents can and can’t have in their yards.

When HOAs enforce restrictions that prevent homeowners from pursuing eco-friendly updates, they’re not just stifling individual creativity but also hindering environmental progress. These actions can lead to increased electricity bills due to a lack of solar energy usage or higher water bills and a greater impact from non-native landscapes that require excessive irrigation.

Sadly, HOAs also have a lot of power to enforce those rules. 

“Hiding won’t work,” said one commenter. “You see so many stories of sneaky HOAs that go looking for violations. What you need to do is go into your HOA rules and see what is allowed. Maybe you can plant a hedge to hide the greenhouse, or have a fence. Alternatively, you could ask for some sort of variance, giving you permission to have a visible greenhouse in a certain place, of a certain height.”

“You can put up a REALLY good plan and show it to your board for a waiver,” another user agreed.

HOAs also have official processes for changing their rules. To find out how, check out this handy guide.

Luckily, the original poster’s HOA turned out to be a more reasonable one than most times The Cool Down has covered stories like this

“I just found out that all you need to do is have it look like it belongs in the neighborhood, but you need to tell them in advance to get their approval!” the OP said in a follow-up comment.

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