A Very Costly Sign of the Times

A Very Costly Sign of the Times

Technology has made it possible to view and rent a home without ever stepping foot on the property.  Websites abound offering incentives and giving the best possible look at everything from window sashes to boat docks.  But this doesn’t mean that an age-old marketing art form has fallen to the wayside.  In even the most upscale communities, a For-Rent sign can draw interest and new occupants into any single-family rental.  And in practically any community, the For-Rent sign can also result in expensive fines for any owner that violates the association sign policy.  

These are the questions each owner needs to consider:

Does the For-Rent sign generate enough responses to make it worth the fines?  

Will the interest created by the For-Rent sign be worth antagonizing the HOA?

One owner decided to work the cost of 7 days’ worth of fines into their business model for a large home located in an exclusive association.  When the home was ready to rent, they violated the HOA sign policy by placing a 2-foot-tall sign in the front yard.  They paid the $250 initial cost and $50/day for each day the sign was there.  This association had a rule that allowed a sign, of any size, to be placed in the window.  They also had a rule that allowed fine costs to escalate if the violation was repeated in a 12-month period.  

11 months later, when the resident chose not to renew, the owner put the For-Rent sign back in the yard.  The HOA fined them $500 for the initial costs and $100/day.  The owner asked to have some costs waived and the HOA board said ‘no’.  The owner was aware of the rules when they purchased, had already paid the previous fine so there was no doubt they knew the rules and yet still insisted on violating the rules.  The owner decided to put the same size sign in the window 12 months later.

Another owner had purchased 3 homes in one neighborhood.  By the time all 3 were rented, For-Rent sign fines had accrued to over $10,000 and the management company refused to speak to any of the owner’s team on the phone.  All communications had to be in writing because the management company would speak with one employee, the signs would be removed, the fines waived, and the next day another employee would put the signs back up.  After weeks of this kind of back and forth, the management company wanted to ensure they documented all the efforts made to properly resolve the situation.  

When the HOA board read the communications and reviewed the timelines, they refused to waive any fines for this owner.  Eventually one of the tenants violated the CC&R’s and at that point, the neighbors began to think of the owner as an absentee landlord.  Relations between the association and the owner remained heated.

The best solution is to be aware of and abide by all sign rules before placing a For-Rent sign on the property.  The costs related to improperly displaying a For-Rent sign go way beyond an owner’s checkbook.  Remember that an association is made up of all the people who live there.  Anytime an owner makes the choice to violate the association rules, they also make the choice to disrespect their neighbors.  And that can result in long term discord that can only be solved when the For-Rent sign is replaced with one that says For Sale.

Signage, Simplified  
Operations Column: October 2018