Buying a Vacation Home: Understand Zoning Laws and HOA Rules First

Buying a vacation home is an exciting prospect, but beware of zoning laws and other restrictions that can prevent you from enjoying your property or renting out your vacation home. If renting is allowed, there may be restrictions and requirements. Local zoning and community rules can regulate everything from how many guests you can have, whether or not pets are permitted and how you maintain the exterior of your vacation hideaway.

CC&Rs and HOA Rules

Covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and homeowners association (HOA) rules governing real property can be filed by a regional zoning authority such as federal, state or local agencies having jurisdiction over your vacation home. You may also have to comply with rules set by your homeowners association if your property is part of an HOA community. These rules and regulations are typically a matter of public record and can be located through a title search on the property you want to purchase. Obtaining and reading through the actual CC&R’s and HOA by-laws is your best bet for avoiding misunderstandings.

CC&Rs and HOA rules may cover rentals, pets, age, outdoor activities, health and safety, wildlife and common areas.

Rentals

A common restriction in vacation condo complexes and single family vacation homes prevents property owners from renting out their vacation homes. This is important to know before you buy a place you’re planning to pay for by renting it out. CNBC reports that vacation homes eligible for rentals tend to be worth more than those that cannot be rented. Many HOAs prohibit rentals altogether. If you’re planning to rent your vacation home, verify health and safety requirements, required taxes and liability insurance recommendations and requirements.

Pets

Determine whether or not pets are allowed. In recent years, breed restrictions on dogs have been used by homeowner associations and local agencies to prevent the presence of animals considered potentially dangerous. Other rules may cover the types, size and number of pets you may keep. You don’t want to buy a vacation home and find out afterward that your three Neapolitan mastiffs aren’t allowed to join in the fun.

Age Limitations

If you want to share your vacation home with your grandkids or rent your vacation home to families with kids, don’t buy a vacation home in a senior resort community that limits the presence of children or adults under 55.

Outdoor Activities

Check for limitations on outdoor activities and rules concerning your neighbors’ “peaceful enjoyment” of their vacation homes. Rules against disturbing the peace and restrictions on guest parking in common areas are typical. Some communities may have rules relating to the upkeep of your vacation home and its grounds.

Health and Safety

Check for requirements concerning fire safety such as clearing brush, and health and safety concerns such as trash disposal and off-season maintenance.

Environment and Wildlife

While enjoying  the natural environment is a likely motivation for buying a vacation home, be aware of regulations designed to protect wildlife and its habitat for all to enjoy. If your vacation home is located on federal or state land, make sure you’re familiar with all rules concerning fishing, hunting, boating and otherwise enjoying the area around your vacation home.

Use of Common Areas

Access roads, community pools and spas, boat docks and trails are examples of common areas. HOA rules typically address maintenance and use of common areas. Pay attention to posted signs and instructions.

A local real estate broker can (and should) advise you beforehand about rules and regulations that may not be compatible with your plans for your vacation home.

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