Can Your Homeowners Association Say No To Security System Signs?

HOA expert Richard Thompson answers your questions about living in condos, co-ops and communities with homeowners associations.

Q: Does the homeowner association have the right to restrict home security system signs in the common area outside of the homes?

A: The HOA usually has the right to limit signs in the common area and what is placed in home windows. Small security stickers on the window are usually allowed. The main concern is curb appeal. Uncontrolled signage creates a cluttered look and reduces property values.

Q: I don’t feel the board spends money in our best interests. I protested by withholding payment until year-end. Recently, I received a notice saying if I didn’t pay, they would put a lien on my home. Can they do this? Am I wrong to protest this way?

A: Withholding assessments in protest is not the way to get your point across and, yes, the board has both the right and duty to process collection on delinquencies. I assume your concerns are for the community as a whole and not for personal issues.

Your points and solutions should be made in writing to the board. Whether they act on them or not is another question. If they don’t and you feel strongly that they should, I encourage you to run for election so that you can have a direct effect on the outcome. It’s every owner’s duty to serve.

Q: Is it very difficult to change the governing documents? What’s the process?

A: If you are thinking about amending your governing documents, you should consult with an attorney specializing in HOA law. There are state and federal laws to consider as well as practical applications that need to be harmonized. Once the amendment(s) are approved, they usually need to be recorded. The attorney can assist with this as well.

Q: Should we include landscape items in our Reserve Study? How about insuring trees?

A: It’s wise to include “Landscape Renovation” and “Tree Work” in the Reserve Study. All bushes and trees have a limited life. Bushes die and outgrow their location.

While trees usually have a long life, they require corrective pruning that should be done every three to five years and is expensive.

Hiring an arborist to do a comprehensive inventory and report on the trees also makes a lot of sense. If each tree is tagged and referenced in the report, maintenance can be easily tracked. Consistent corrective pruning will extend the lives of the trees and keep them looking good.

Insurance for non-income producing trees provides limited coverage for claims related to fire, lightning, explosion, riot, aircraft, vehicles, vandalism and theft. Most tree claims are related to vehicle damage. Wind, freezing and pest claims are not honored.

Tree insurance does not actually insure the trees for value but provides replacement in standard nursery sizes.

In other words, that wind-fallen 80 foot Douglas fir will probably get you an 8-12 foot replacement. Based on the coverage available, $5,000 coverage will cover quite a few replacements.

To avoid the possibility of insect infestation, use native trees that are hardy and pest resistant. If you already have those prone to insects, consult with an arborist for the proper preventive maintenance or alternatively, cut them down and replace them.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of