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My wife and I have found a vacant lot (this is in Utah, BTW) where we would like to build a house. However, the HOA that the lot belongs to does not allow more than four occupants, regardless of the size of the home. The CCR actually says

(community name) is designed and intended to be for a specific lifestyle. Neither the Units nor the common areas are designed to accommodate large families. Permanent residents of (community name) shall be restricted and limited to families with no more than four person's related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

Does the HOA actually have authority to enforce this? What happens if we build a house (with plenty of room), move in with our two kids, and then have another baby?

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  • 5
    I think, but cannot cite, that the restriction to people "related by blood, marriage, or adoption." has been held unenforceable in other cases (in Michigan) Restrictions on the number of residents in an apartment or house have been upheld, I am sure, but the details will matter. I don't have the sources and details to provide a valid answer at this time. Aug 25 at 17:33
  • 33
    Do you really wish to force yourself into an HOA community that will likely shun you? They probably cannot legally enforce the size of your family but there's not much stopping them from making you feel like an outsider. You have a right to have as big of a family as you please and they have a right to simply not like you. The social repercussions will be real.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 26 at 13:02
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    @MonkeyZeus more to the point the livability of an HOA community is largely dependent on how reasonable/obnoxious the enforcement is. If you do something to infuriate the local busy bodies they can nitpick you to death with an unending stream of petty violations. Aug 26 at 13:14
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    Since this is in Utah, this might be a way to ban LDS families, or conservative families, or immigrant families without "breaking" any laws. I would check the demographics of the community and see if they have a certain type of people they approve of. Given the demographics of the state, I would be surprised if they really care about 5 person families, they're probably trying to regulate some other characteristic that would be illegal to restrict directly. Aug 26 at 14:26
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    "shall be restricted and limited to families with no more than four person's related by blood, marriage, or adoption" - so, you can have unlimited tenants (rent-free) not related by blood, marriage, or adoption?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 26 at 15:53
55

As stated, this is not a reasonable restriction and runs afoul of the Fair Housing Act. You cannot discriminate based on family status, with an exemption for "housing for older persons", and the act "does not limit the applicability of reasonable local, state, or federal restrictions regarding the maximum number of occupants permitted to occupy a dwelling" (let's leave aside HOA restrictions for a moment).

The number of occupants can legally be restricted in terms of a reasonable relation to a legitimate interest such as parking availability, safety, noise or securing the property. A restriction based on square footage or number of bedrooms might be reasonable: a blanket rule "no more than 4 people" is not reasonable. This article notes some of the state complication in interpreting "marital status", in terms of "not being married to each other".

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    @Hasse1987, the restriction doesn't cite any of the recognized reasonable grounds.
    – Mark
    Aug 26 at 6:13
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    It even admits to an improper purpose, "designed and intended to be for a specific lifestyle". That's precisely what the FHA was intended to prohibit. That's a flat out "we want people like us, not people different from us". (But, unfortunately, if the HOA decides they don't like you, they can often make your life miserable.) Aug 26 at 15:42
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    Also note, the rules try to justify themselves by saying that the "units" aren't designed for large families. That makes this a particularly unreasonable restriction, since OP is looking at a vacant lot and can build a house the appropriate size for their family (alleviating what they allege is their real concern).
    – bta
    Aug 26 at 21:44
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    @Acccumulation I'm not talking about the FHA as it existed when it was passed in 1968. I'm talking about the FHA as it exists now after many amendments, including the FHAA which amended the FHA in 1988 to ensure protection from discrimination in housing on the basis or things like sex and familial status. Aug 26 at 23:39
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    @user6726 thanks for the answer, I thought as much from other research, but I wanted someone to confirm I wasn't crazy. Of course, we wouldn't buy this property without going over everything with a lawyer first.
    – TallChuck
    Aug 27 at 14:16
36

What happens if we build a house (with plenty of room), move in with our two kids, and then have another baby?

You will start getting spurious violations like:

  • Your grass was not cut Tuesday morning between 9am and 10am
  • Your garbage cans need to be hidden from the street
  • Your child hopped too many scotches on the sidewalk during a low-noise ordinance
  • Your car's exhaust is suddenly too loud
  • Your front window reflects too much light into the eyes of passersby between 2:05pm and 2:36pm
  • How dare you apply rainbow decorations on your child's playroom window during the off-season!
  • You left the Halloween decorations on your child's playroom window past October 31st 11:59:59pm
  • Your grass extends past your lawn by .025cm
  • You did not get your trees pruned by the yearly deadline
  • You did not pick up all of the leaves before the first snowfall
  • Should I keep going?
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    If you don't take this answer seriously, then you need to go to ij.org or search reddit or youtube for HOA nightmares. Aug 26 at 17:29
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    @MichaelMcFarlane I appreciate the support. I have zero legal knowledge of the verbiage in question but I figured that answering the practical aspect is as important as the legal aspect. If anyone disagrees then I would assume the only answer needed is a link to the Fair Housing Act's Examples of Familial Status Discrimination
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 26 at 18:40
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    @MichaelMcFarlane I never thought to check Reddit but Got fined $35 for sidewalk chalk really hits the nail square on the head.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 26 at 18:44
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    What the actual F. I just read through some reddit posts. What is even going on with HOAs? Can someone explain to non-US people why anyone sane would ever, under any circumstances, join a HOA? I would rather live in a tent in the woods.
    – fgysin
    Aug 27 at 9:25
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    @fgysin You're looking at it from the wrong angle. You don't join an HOA because you wish to be controlled; you join because you wish to control your neighbors. If I am a prim and proper person that just wants to work on my landscaping all the time and enjoy not hearing children, not stepping in dog poo, and not hearing the mechanic neighbor's loud noises at 9pm then I would join an HOA. Could I just get a home with lots of land? Sure, but then I miss out on the conveniences of a community living such as nearby amenities and safety via denser population.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 27 at 12:53
-3

It would be interesting to address the legality by stating that your wife is 1 of 4 who can reside by marriage, you and your children are blood, so therefore 4 of 4 by blood relation (related by blood to both you or her) and thus, you could theoretically be meeting the rule without meeting the intent. By this thinking it could be conceived that there could be 10 persons living in the household, you would count as 1 of 4 in each of the three restrictions (that is also somehow assuming you can get by on polygamic issues).

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    The language is "limited to families with no more than four person's related by blood, marriage, or adoption." I do not think that can be taken to mean 4 by blood, and four by marriage. It means four people, each of who must be related to the others by blood, marriage, or adoption. That leaves the question of whether that meaning is allowed by law, which other answers have addressed. Aug 27 at 19:58
  • I concur, in my consideration, the intent is understood. but the letter is what I am questioning. Punctuation is an important thing. a semicolon here would drive the intent home.
    – Mike
    Aug 30 at 13:34

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