Who is responsible for knowing deed restriction rules

by Brittney

Visitor Question: I live in a deed restricted neighborhood, and when I first moved into the neighborhood I had Culligan's water softener company come out and install a water pump in my house. The pump is on the side of the house outside, and I was just informed that I was supposed to get permission before putting this pump in.

My question to you is should the water company have told me I needed approval before going ahead with installing the water pump or was it my responsibility as a homeowner to already have this knowledge.

Editors Reply Ultimately it is always the homeowner's responsibility for knowing and observing laws and rules, whether they are enshrined in the deed restrictions, covered under your city's zoning ordinance, or voted into existence by an HOA board.

So we are sympathetic with what has happened to you right now, but let this be a cautionary tale to let you know that you need to be asking plenty of questions and investigating rules and laws yourself before going ahead with home improvements.

Having said all of that, often contractors who install something that nearly always requires a building permit, such as a roof, fence, pool, or maintenance shed, will be experts on all of the pertinent zoning laws, subdivision regulations, and covenants in a particular geography. The best ones often give you a warning about these things, and many times the contractor himself will go to city hall to obtain the permit.

So we also can see the other side of the argument, which would be that a national firm such as Culligan's should be well aware that there might be places in its service area where some type of advance permission would be needed.

But on balance, we think you are in a weak position for demanding that the contractor go back and correct the entire situation. The best course of action for you is to now follow the correct procedure with your HOA. Unless this type of installation is specifically prohibited by deed restriction, you are highly likely to receive the permission. You might have to listen to a little lecture, and possibly the HOA might levy a fine. But we would guess that it is more likely that you just are warned not to do this again and given the permission you need, without any further consequences.

It would be quite unusual for the HOA to request that you remove the pump before they grant permission for you to install it again.

Just remember in the future to ask questions. Since you are in a deed restricted community, you will need to pay attention both to the deed restrictions and to city or county zoning. If you have an HOA that also is allowed to make "rules" in addition to the deed restrictions, make sure you obtain a copy of these rules. If you do not have a copy of the deed restrictions, you can visit your county court house and obtain one. Then lastly, locate your city's zoning ordinance. Most of the time now these will be online somewhere, but if not, know where in city hall you have to go to access it, and what hours it is available.

Then you should be able to avoid these unpleasant situations in the future.

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