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Little Free Library causes big problems for homeowner, HOA

One of the most frustrating disputes homeowners can get into with a homeowners' association involves adding something or making changes on their property that they view as harmless. They might even argue that it makes the neighborhood a better place.

However, HOAs don't always agree and they can reject or request removal of an unapproved element. This can (and does) lead to fights that can spiral out and affect the entire community. 

For instance, recently a Florida homeowner added a Little Free Library on her property. These small structures are designed to be a place where people in the neighborhood can come and take out books and share books with others. 

The homeowner added it on her property assuming it wouldn't hurt anyone. However, she failed to get approval from her HOA before adding it. 

A member of the HOA initially contacted her thanking her for adding the lending library, but requested that she submit an architectural review application. These applications are typically required by HOAs whenever homeowners want to do anything that changes the appearance of their home.

After the review, the woman learned the HOA did not approve her application. The HOA did not give a reason.

Since then, the woman has gone to her neighbors with a petition asking the HOA to let the lending library stay, while the HOA proposed that the woman move the library to an area on the association's property. The two sides have yet to reach an agreement, and the HOA is now requesting that the homeowner pay for legal costs and attorney fees.

What homeowners can take away from this situation

Homeowners and HOAs in other areas can avoid similar disputes. Even if an addition seems harmless, homeowners should submit an application to the HOA to secure approval before making any aesthetic changes. An HOA should review each application thoroughly and fairly, and then provide a reason if it rejects a homeowner's request.

In the event that a similar dispute cannot be avoided, it may be wise to consult an attorney to discuss options for pursuing a fair resolution.

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