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HOA versus basketball goal

by Tammi T
(Cypress)

Visitor Questions: Q1. How can I get a provision for basketball goals changed from the deed? I asked my HOA and they told me they didn't know!

Q2. I heard the builders are the ones who write the deeds for a subdivision. If this is true and the builder no longer exist, does this make the deed restrictions null and void?

I have just recently moved to Texas and never heard of an HOA before! Please help.

Editors Reply: We have several points to make in response to your questions. We want to start by sympathizing with you in your lack of experience with HOAs. In fast-growing states, such as Texas, many if not most of the new subdivisions have these homeowner associations.

So even though deed restrictions are not our preferred way to enforce rules in subdivisions, right now I think they are here to stay. (We say we don't prefer these because people or the HOA often have to sue to enforce them. In general your city government cannot help you, although Houston for one is starting to help homeowners a bit.)

Now to your main question of whether you can get your deed restrictions changed or somehow removed from your deed. This is not an easy process, and we predict that after you look at what is involved, you will decide that a basketball goal is not worth the trouble and expense.

In general and throughout the U.S., deed restrictions can be changed only by the person who originally imposed the restrictions, or their heirs. Now there are many variations on this theme, and sometimes the master deed (which might also be called something else, such as the CC&Rs) spells out a procedure allowing for a certain majority of the property owners to change the restrictions. Or sometimes the restrictions become void after a certain number of years, maybe 20 or 30. Or the HOA itself might be empowered to change the deed restrictions, although in our experience so far, this is rare.

To know for sure, you would need to consult an attorney who can research and respond to the exact wording of your particular restrictive covenants (another term for deed restrictions).

As for the HOA telling you that they didn't know how to change the deed restrictions, they may well be telling you the exact truth. HOA board members and hired administrators sometimes are very well informed, sophisticated, and conscientious about their duties. Sometimes they are not. There is no training for them, unless they pay a company, college, or seminar. Sometimes these are just ordinary good people doing the best they can to make decisions about keeping up the exterior of the buildings and also the grounds.

Your last question reflects the common situation that the developer was the one who imposed the restrictions. While in many states a land owner fifty years ago could have imposed deed restrictions that are still valid, in the case of outlawing basketball goals, we can safely assume that it was the developer who did this.

In terms of restrictive covenants, it makes no difference if the developer is living or dead, in business or out of business, or involved in the same business entity or a different one. If the developer once owned the land that you now own, his or her restrictions are valid until repealed according to a change method outlined in the master deed or by state law.

So our best advice for your particular situation is to decide if you are willing to spend time and money on this issue. If you want to pursue it, a great first step would be to talk with your new neighbors to see if they agree with you that the restriction should be lifted. If the majority agree with you, you simply are in a bit of a stronger position as you work with an attorney to modify the restrictions. And sometimes that majority agreement is actually significant in a legal sense.

We hope these comments are helpful.

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