Look for these dangers in homeowners association bylaws before buying your home

Look for these dangers in homeowners association bylaws before buying your home

In a heartbreaking story, the parents of a daughter with leukemia have struggled with their homeowners association over building a playhouse for the young girl. According to ABC Chicago, the Missouri couple has said their 6-year-old’s condition keeps her from playing with other children. The playhouse would give her the ability to be outdoors, but the homeowners group denied the parents’ request because the plan for the structure “violates the group’s covenants.”

As any Chicago real estate attorney would know, outdoor structures are just one of the items homeowners associations govern. Before purchasing property, people in Illinois and around the country should pay attention to the bylaws, especially concerning the following matters.


According to Bankrate.com, homeowners association bylaws restrict many aspects of the way 55 million Americans – roughly one in five people – live. One area that is nearly always addressed in an agreement is landscaping, which can cover the following:

  • Prohibiting homeowners from putting up signs on their lawns
  • Limiting the number of plants, trees and shrubs in both front and back yards
  • Dictating the certain types of fences that are permissible

As any Chicago real estate attorney knows, many organizations also dictate the appearance and upkeep of the yard. This could include mandatory professional assistance at most, and regular weeding and mowing at the least. For potential buyers who intend on planting a garden, fencing in a yard or supporting political candidates, it is wise to consult the bylaws before making a down payment.

Exterior decoration

When looking for a new house, many people keep a list of items they might want to change. However, any of those potential alterations should be compared with the bylaws. Many groups have limitations regarding the paint color on the exterior of the home, the mailbox and even placing basketball hoops in the driveway.

Architectural features

Structural modifications are perhaps the biggest challenge for those who want to change a home in accordance with bylaws. A homeowners association will often dictate which contractors may be used and what changes can be made. These bylaws will apply to interior and exterior changes, such as adding another room, taking down walls and even putting a shed in the back yard.

Other considerations

It is important for anyone interested in buying a home governed by such an association to read the fine print of the bylaws. Homeowners groups have been known to ban lemonade stands and even prohibit people from posting “for sale” signs. While it is not new for associations to ban smoking in public places, a new trend is to prohibit the behavior inside residents’ homes.

Taking the right steps prior to buying a home will ensure that the property owners are not surprised by any bylaws. Anyone with questions regarding this matter should consult with a Chicago real estate attorney.

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