After you’ve bought your home, moved in, and started to unpack, you might think you’re free to do whatever you please with your property. In some cases, however, that isn’t true. There are still bylaws, guidelines, and restrictions that could impact the decisions you want to make about your home. These may change from one state to another and sometimes even from one neighborhood to another. Here are some things every homeowner should know about their rights.
Check for Homeowners Association Restrictions
Does your neighborhood have a homeowners association (HOA)? You should find out, and fast. HOAs govern neighborhoods to protect property values and can make major decisions on the appearance of your home. If you want to paint the exterior of your house, build a fence or park an RV in your driveway, the HOA may be able to put in their own guidelines or even ban you from doing so completely.
You Have the Right to Make Improvements
You have the right to upgrade your property by putting in a pool, building an addition or landscaping your yard – within reason. You still have to adhere to property zoning laws and building codes which may have restrictions on things such as the height of any structure placed in your yard. You may also be forbidden to add an in-ground pool if it could potentially damage any pipes or water lines that run through your yard. Before doing any major renovations, check your local bylaw office to see what is allowed.
You may also want to make sure any renovations or construction on your property is happening with the right health and safety precautions in place. Make sure your plumbers are licensed, your contractors are insured, and that you are using professionals for tasks such as sandblasting services instead of trying to take on difficult jobs yourself.
You Can’t Do Whatever You Want on Your Property
When you own a home, you have the right to do what you please inside and on your property, as long as it is not against the law. It may seem obvious that it’s still illegal to do certain activities while within your home, but one that catches many homeowners off guard is that you can not legally run a home-based business without the proper licensing. If you plan on selling home-baked goods from your kitchen, for example, or opening up a hair salon in the basement, you need to ensure you have the right paperwork if you want to avoid legal trouble.
Enjoyment Is a Right
You have the right to the enjoyment of your home, but that doesn’t mean you can yell at your neighbors for mowing their lawn too early in the morning while you’re trying to sleep. What it does mean, however, is that nearby businesses have to ensure they keep the noise below a certain decibel level, factories cannot pollute into your waterways and that your neighbor cannot damage your garden by spraying his pesticides far and wide. As for the early morning lawnmower? Depending on your area, there may be a local ordinance that stipulates how early you can use noisy machinery.
You May Not Be the Sole Owner of Your Home
As a property owner, you have the right of disposition, which means you have the right to sell or transfer your property to someone of your choosing. This means you can hand it down to a family member in a will, or rent it out. This right is restricted if you still have a mortgage, however, as the bank is actually the owner of your property. You may also have an easement on your home, which is a legal interest in your property that is owned by someone other than yourself. Typically, this will be a public utility company, like the water or electricity company. However, some easements could have been made by previous property owners to a neighbor – granting them the right to build onto your property, for example. These easements will be attached to the deed and you will still be expected to uphold them.
Homeowners need to be aware of their rights, as well as their responsibilities. Being an uninformed homeowner could leave you with hefty fines or lawsuits.