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Land-Use Control

Planned Communities: Read The Fine Print

One in eight people in the United States live in planned communities, which include townhouses, condominiums, co-ops, and entire real estate developments containing single-family homes. A common feature of all planned communities is a homeowner association, which oversees the maintenance and administration of the real estate, especially the common areas shared by all owners. A board of directors of the association, elected by the property owners, enforces the community's rules.

Planned communities often impose a number of restrictions on their members. These are typically contained in the real estate deed, which becomes a contract between the property buyer and the community. Purchasers are bound by these restrictions whether or not they read or understood them. The restrictions may cover a wide range of architectural and aesthetic limitations, and are believed to increase the value of property in the community. Unwary residents may find the limitations extreme.

Residents of planned communities have faced limitations on things such as paint colors, pets, sports and sporting equipment, and outdoor decorations. Under such restrictions homeowners have been threatened with fines for stringing Christmas lights, taken to court because their dog was too heavy, and prohibited from throwing a Frisbee. Association dues can be used to pay for a lawsuit enforcing a restriction, and some bylaws require the defendant homeowner to reimburse the association's legal fees.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Labor Department - Employment And Training Administration to Legislative PowerLand-Use Control - Private Land-use Restrictions, The Master Plan And Official Map, Planned Communities: Read The Fine Print