HOA before buying condo
February 22, 2021 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I put a bid on a condo and it was accepted. Yay! The title company sent the condo HOA CCRs and one of the rules is not sitting well with me.

It’s regarding parking and use of garage space (this is not common use property). The CCR says using garage space for anything that is not parking is prohibited.

It’s a 2car garage. There’s laundry and storage space in front of the parking. When I saw the space I thought that I could use the space for laundry, workout space and a small office and then use the 2nd space as storage for bicycles, kayak, camping equipment, etc.

None of these activities are allowed per what I read.

Every one is telling me it’s not a big deal, I can use the space how I want, how will any one know...

Now I want to walk away. I know that it all depends on how strict the HOA is run. Is this not a big deal? Controlling how I use my indoor space seems to be over reach. Is this a normal HOA rule and I’m overreacting?
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Personal opinion: If you are put off by this enough to be reconsidering the purchase, maybe walk away from the whole thing. The next problem/grievance that comes across you will already be primed to kick yourself for going through with it when you had a bad gut feeling.
posted by phunniemee at 9:28 AM on February 22, 2021 [25 favorites]

Is the garage space enclosed or is it open air? (car port)
posted by nathaole at 9:29 AM on February 22, 2021

The people you want to talk to are existing condo owners - it's entirely possible that this is something that they only enforce for things like running a business out of the garage (which can be a nuisance) or it's something that nosy assholes use to harass owners. The HOA my condo was in had a rule about what color your curtains could be and in ten years of owning there, not a single person ever so much as *mentioned* that rule. No one cared, they just used a boilerplate HOA document when they set things up.

tl;dr could go either way, see if your realtor can put you in touch with someone on the HOA board for the building to ask about this.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:34 AM on February 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: The garage space is enclosed.

My real estate agent reached out to HOA rep, so I’m waiting to hear back.
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy at 9:36 AM on February 22, 2021

IANAL, but I don't think the HOA can enter your house to inspect how you're using the garage. Therefore, the key question is probably what rules govern where you plan to park your car(s) if you put the garage to the uses listed in your question. So if there are limits on parking in the driveway, on the street or at designated visitor spots, you're probably screwed from a practical perspective. If not, then you're probably fine.
posted by carmicha at 9:37 AM on February 22, 2021

Best answer: I am on the HOA for my condo association.

If you buy the place with plans to violate the HOA's rules, that's a recipe for disaster. If being able to do whatever you want with your garage is a dealbreaker, back out. If you use the garage for an office, and the HOA finds out because someone is nosy or shitty, you will be pissed off.

Agree with the above that this rule is likely to decrease street parking and ensure that owners have a place to park. Is there an accompanying rule that says you can't leave your car parked in the driveway?
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:41 AM on February 22, 2021 [21 favorites]

Best answer: A decent number of HOAs outsource the maintenance and operation of the HOA. It can be the case that no one who lives in the HOA - and possibly even no-one on the HOA board - cares what you do with the garage, but you still getting notified/fined for violation of HOA rules because an outsourced maintenance worker noticed your kayaks when you opened your garage door.

I agree with Medieval Maven - it's a bad idea to join an HOA with intent to violate the HOA's rules.

I can see a strong reason not to allow offices/working in your garage. The electricity for the garage might not be attached to your unit (in which case the HOA would pay for your electricity use), and the garage is likely not designed to be habitable (potentially leading to code compliance issues). Further, many regulations are determined by "livable area" and having the HOA allow use of the garage for working may change taxation/regulation of the condo complex.
posted by saeculorum at 9:48 AM on February 22, 2021 [12 favorites]

Agree with the above that this rule is likely to decrease street parking

It's also probably intended to reduce noise pollution in the building. I used to live in a building with garages and when people used the garages as living space (up to the guy with a metal band who used to practice in theirs) it travelled all over the building because garages aren't soundproofed as well as living areas.
posted by winna at 9:52 AM on February 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Nthing that the legit issue here is folks filling up their entire garage space and parking their car on the street/in guest spots. If you have a car, you need to plan to park it in your garage. I think that "parking" bicycle/kayak/camping equipment in your second garage space is a reasonable interpretation. A home office, not so much.
posted by desuetude at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

I can see a strong reason not to allow offices/working in your garage. The electricity for the garage might not be attached to your unit (in which case the HOA would pay for your electricity use), and the garage is likely not designed to be habitable (potentially leading to code compliance issues). Further, many regulations are determined by "livable area" and having the HOA allow use of the garage for working may change taxation/regulation of the condo complex.

This. On my HOA we get reports of all kinds of shit and if someone doesn’t like it they move heaven and earth to get it gone.

That said, it smells like a rule put in there after someone was annoyed—and someone will be nosy in general and especially if they take a dislike to you

When Covid lockdowns started, people set up their garages to do personal training and most of the HOA voted to call the cops on them (and in the case of a renter, get eviction proceedings started). I do not know the final outcome because they only call me when they need a quorum.
posted by tilde at 10:15 AM on February 22, 2021 [9 favorites]

Most building codes prevent using a space as living space unless it has a window or windows of a certain minimum size, exceptions for closets and bathrooms. Thus my condo has a kitchen area that is not walled off from the living area because if it were, it would not have any windows. Thus, it would violate code.

I would imagine using your garage as living space would violate code. Storage, however, won't be affected by the window code.

I certainly agree with restless_nomad that most condos begin with bylaws that are boilerplate. After all, it is the builders who establish the bylaws until they pass control of the building to the HOA. Even if the HOA board is generally laissez faire, it just takes one other owner to start a stink.

Have you lived in a condo before? I hadn't until I moved into the one I'm in now. I really like the unit and the building. It's in a great location and well-managed and maintained. BUT I was surprised how much it feels sometimes like being in a public school or an undergraduate college dorm. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Rivalries and changing alliances are common. As are tattle-tales.
posted by tmdonahue at 10:21 AM on February 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

You're getting a lot of guesses from folks who haven't lived with this rule.

In my HOA this rule was there to prevent people from taking up the guest parking. You were supposed to use your own garage for parking, not grab yourself some extra living space and offload your parking needs onto the commons. This was the only reason for the rule, and it was an important one. It sucks to have your ability to have guests curtailed because your neighbors are grabbing more than their share.

If you don't have a car, you can consider yourself exempt in good conscience from this rule; nobody will be trying to enforce it on you. If you do have a car, and your intention is to offload your parking needs onto the guest parking lot, then there may be enforcement to worry about.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:23 AM on February 22, 2021 [7 favorites]

I'm of the opinion that discretionary enforcement of oddly strict and commonly unenforced rules is one of the biggest facilitators of racism (and sexism) in the world.

So yeah if you're white and look clean cut and keep your door closed, you probably won't get hassled.

But I think you should walk away, because I don't think you'd want to resign so much control of your housing to random assholes who can—without notice or clear motivation—choose to mess with your living situation.

Counting on the goodwill of strangers to grant you de facto exemption from a clearly written rule just because you might be following the spirit of it is not a recipe for a happy situation imo, ymmv etc.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:32 AM on February 22, 2021 [15 favorites]

As someone who lived car-free in a condo and tried to use my deeded garage space to park my bike and got HOA complaints over it looking "messy" (and thus had to store my bike upstairs in my condo) but letting my boyfriend park his car in my space was fine because it was a ~car~, I would be wary. Get what the HOA board says about your proposed use of the space /in writing/, but also check with a lawyer. There's what's legal, and then there's the reality of the harassment you'll be subjected to if a nosy neighbor decides that what you're doing with the space doesn't fit the "neighborhood character."

Number one reason why Mr. Kouti and I are assiduously avoiding anything with an HOA as we start our own homebuying search - we both have had awful experiences with them. Him in a triplex, me in a larger 16-unit building, and I also grew up in one of those planned neighborhood 21-unit HOA deals. My mom loved testing the boundaries by hanging out seasonal windsocks. Yes, she regularly got complaints over a single windsock hanging on our front porch. On the other hand, they still live there and have outlasted the nastiest of the neighbors for 45 years, but it takes a certain personality.

On preview, 100% cosigned with SaltySalticid re racism (and racist impacts even without being aware of them) under the guise of "controlling neighborhood character."
posted by Pandora Kouti at 10:46 AM on February 22, 2021 [8 favorites]

Whether the rule is normally enforced or not, as long as it's on the books, you risk having people decide to enforce it later.
My HOA has a similar rule and annual inspections to enforce it. However, they don't really care about storage of small things. Supposedly, they just make sure the garage isn't full so people can exit through it in case of a fire. And I did meet someone who said she always called the office if a garage door was open and she could see a lot of stuff in there. She claimed it was because she was worried about fire, but I didn't believe her - I thought it was an aesthetic issue.
I did get a complaint letter from the office for leaving a watering can on my porch though (it was flagged as "outside storage"). There can be a certain craziness with HOAs.

(Also, you say there's "laundry" in front of the parking, but it's not allowed? Do you mean there are laundry hookups there? It would be weird to have hookups and not allow laundry.)
posted by FencingGal at 10:57 AM on February 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

The real questions are how do the CCRs of this HOA compare to other properties that you might purchase and is this rule a dealbreaker? You should assume that you will have to follow it, but also know that any other condo will have this sort of rules about how you can use your space.

As the examples in the thread show, HOAs can get all up in your business. The people on HOA boards are mostly there because they care about these rules. Properties that are mostly run by a professional management company with less board involvement may be less fussy, YMWV.
posted by momus_window at 11:11 AM on February 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm the director of an HOA board in CA with this rule.
The idea is that the garage is where you are supposed to put your car(s), and the parking stalls are for guests. You can have anything you like in your garage as long as there is room for the number of cars it's designed for. People who have received citations for this who complained that they were single and only had one car and should be able to use the rest of the garage how they like, were given exemptions by the board. People who were storing mountains of crap in their garage and parking in the street were not.
Things like installing bedrooms or kitchens in the garage are code violations, separate from your CC&Rs.
I wouldn't think of this rule as a dealbreaker. HOA rules can be annoying sometimes but are also part of what keeps a community attractive and orderly. Of course, this also depends on how reasonable board members are, and that varies widely.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2021 [12 favorites]

This is incredibly common, and you'll probably see it everywhere that has a HOA. I've seen it in 100% of the properties with an HOA I've rented or owned.

The two main goals are:

1) Prevent people from storing a bunch of shit in their garage, and then parking their cars on the street or in guest parking.

2) Running some sort of business out of the garage, like a gym, or turning the garage into an illegal rental.

As far as enforcement, depends on the place. I've experience two people getting the hammer put down on them.

First person was running a CrossFit gym out of her garage. It wasn't the parking, but the people just screaming encouragement at each other at 7am on a weekday. Also, you'd try to drive out the main street and have to wait for a half dozen people doing that "move a heavy tire" thing get out of the way because we didn't have driveways and they'd be constantly blocking the street.

Second dude was trying to to run some sort of fabrication shop and would be out welding and angle grinding at 8pm, and be so loud you could hear it 2-3 streets away. Even if he wasn't doing this on his driveway but in his garage, he'd likely wouldn't have gotten away with it as this was Irvine and people didn't spend $1.5m on their houses to hear industrial noises in the late evenings 5-6 days a week.

I should add that every HOA place was incredibly strict, and live up the stereotypes of busybody assholes. But all the garage violations I heard about were people who were way over the line.
posted by sideshow at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: The HOA person said that there's "absolutely no problem using garage space" as I want to. The rule is to prevent people from parking in driveway spaces and to prevent parking issues.

I asked to get that in writing.

I've never lived in a condo before or somewhere with an HOA, I had expected most of what is in the CCRs, but the use of the inside space prohibition was really different from expectation. I'm not 100% comfortable, but I guess it's solved-ish.

Thanks for all of your input!!
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy at 12:28 PM on February 22, 2021 [14 favorites]

I would address your concern to the HOA and not move forward until you have an answer in writing stating that your intended is approved.
posted by tman99 at 12:28 PM on February 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

I've backed out of a purchase for a minor reason and regretted it. Nowhere is perfect. If they're giving you most of the assurance that you need, then I wouldn't let this kill the deal myself.
posted by slidell at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

There are a lot of people who will use their garages for storage and projects and then park their cars on the street, or in front of the garage, or in guest parking spaces. The rule is probably designed to minimize this. If you don’t have a car I wouldn’t worry about it much, but I would talk to the current board to ask.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:55 PM on February 22, 2021

Several people have said in here that you won't be bothered if you're neat and clean, that they can't come into your garage, that a verbal assurance that you're okay is fine, and that HOAs are reasonable, decent people.
My neighbor was taking personal training from a woman with a garage, because she couldn't work due to the lockdown but had a mortgage to pay. She also didn't own a car, so the space was completely wasted. She is no longer doing that.
If someone assures you of something, get in writing on HOA letterhead, and make sure they have the authority to write it. If someone says, "They'd never do that," or "They can't do that," they can, and they will. HOA people aren't going to listen to your explanation, realise they were wrong, and step aside. Far too many of them live for this kind of situation.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 1:00 PM on February 22, 2021 [13 favorites]

There’s laundry and storage space in front of the parking.

So...There are dedicated hookups, drainage, and exhaust vent for a washer and dryer in the garage? If so, I can't see how you could be prohibited from using them.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:04 AM on February 23, 2021

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