13 Surprising Things That a Homeowner Can Be Fined For

Homeowners have received fines for some pretty wild things. Here are 13 of the most surprising.

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Whether they’re levied by a state, a city or a homeowners’ association, homeowner fines are here to stay. And sometimes they’re given out for some pretty crazy reasons. Here are 13 of the most surprising homeowners fines on the books.

1. Don’t Plant Too Many Roses in Santa Fe, California

A flower-loving resident in Santa Fe, California, once drew a homeowners’ association fine for planting too many roses. The association claimed the rose bushes on his four-acre property exceeded the number allowed by the community’s architecture design rules. A judge agreed, and the homeowner had to pay the association’s $70,000 legal bill. (The poor guy also lost his home—and all those beautiful roses—to the bank during the ordeal.)

2. Don’t Put Your Upholstered Furniture Outside in Boulder, Colorado

The city of Boulder, Colorado, explicitly prohibits upholstered furniture outside your house in the University Hill neighborhood, unless that furniture is specifically upholstered for outdoor use. Doing otherwise is illegal—and costly. If caught, expect to pay for the removal and disposal of the furniture along with a $25 fee for administrative costs.

3. Don’t Let a Donkey Sleep in Your Bathtub in Kingman, Arizona

The city of Kingman, Arizona, passed a law in 1924 prohibiting donkeys from sleeping in bathtubs. That stems from a long-ago rancher who let his donkey catch 40 winks in his tub, an arrangement that caused trouble when a local dam broke and whisked donkey and tub miles away. Kingman passed the law after expending considerable resources to rescue the animal.

4. Don’t Forget to Post a Sign About Your Cat Trap in Riverside County, California

Riverside County, California, doesn’t outlaw cat traps, but they do make you publicize your intent to use one. The county mandates that property owners post a sign visible from the road alerting passers-by that a cat trap is on the premises. (You’re also required to immediately release any lactating cats you catch.) Failure to post the sign will set you back $100. (Instead of a cat trap, we recommend these tips for how to keep stray cats out of your yard.)

5. Don’t Attempt to Ban Clotheslines in Vermont

In 2009, Vermont made it illegal for landlords and homeowners’ associations to prohibit residents from putting up clotheslines. The environmentally-friendly state included that provision in an energy bill. Makes sense when you consider that clothes dryers are responsible for up to 15 percent of a household’s electricity consumption. (Here are more ways to dry clothes without a clothes dryer.)

6. Don’t Annoy Your Neighbors When Watering Your Law in Sheboygan, Wisconsin

It’s often necessary to water your lawn to keep it looking green and healthy. If you live in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, you better make sure your neighbors are okay with your watering plans. The city made it a class B misdemeanor to water your lawn in a way that your neighbors consider a nuisance. Violating this law could land you in jail for up to 90 days and bring a $1,000 fine.

7. Don’t Hang Blue or Any Other Colored String Lights in Guilford, Connecticut

There are so many color choices for lights to hang each holiday season. But if you live in the town of Guilford, Connecticut, you only have one color choice when it comes to your holiday lights. The town passed an ordinance that prohibits any string lights that are not white twinkling lights. Expect a visit from the Santa police for hanging anything else.

8. Don’t Set Up Your Yard Sale the Wrong Way (or Have Too Many) in University City, Missouri

You need to be extra careful when holding a yard sale in University City, Missouri. That’s because it’s illegal to set up a yard sale in your own front yard! And even if you move your yard sale somewhere acceptable, you still need to watch how many you hold. The St. Louis suburb limits homeowners to two per year.

9. Don’t Lower Your Garage Door in Auburn, California

For a time, a homeowners’ association in this Sacramento-area city required its residents to keep their garage doors open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day or pay a $200 fine. They claimed it was necessary because people were illegally living in those garages. The association eventually backed down after residents complained en masse about potential theft of their bikes and other possessions.

10. Don’t Buy a Purple Swing Set in Kansas City, Missouri

There were some pretty sad little kids when a homeowners’ association in Kansas City, Missouri, told their parents that their purple swing set had to come down. The association claimed that purple was not a pre-approved color, and they would not accept the homeowners’ offer to paint the swing set gray. Fortunately for the kids, a judge ruled in their parents’ favor.

11. Don’t Park Your Truck in Your Driveway in Odessa, Florida

Could you imagine spending nearly $200,000 to defend your right to park in your driveway? This actually happened to one man in Florida. Because his large pickup truck was too big to fit in his garage, his homeowners’ association gave him permission to park it in his driveway. They later reversed their decision and sued him when he failed to comply. The man eventually won that case, which left the association on the hook for his sizable legal fees.

12. Don’t Let Dandelions Get Too Long in Pueblo, Colorado

If you have dandelions growing in your yard in Pueblo, Colorado, don’t forget to monitor their growth. That’s because the town mandates that dandelions cannot be more than 10 inches high. If you neglect to cut or pull them when they get too tall, the city will do it for you and charge you $100 in labor costs for the courtesy. (Here are some excellent tips on how to control weeds.)

13. Don’t Erect a Tall Fence in Rhode Island

If you’re planning on installing a fence in Rhode Island, make sure it’s less than six feet tall. The state claims any fence more than six feet high is a spite fence, which can be considered a public nuisance. And anyone whose view or enjoyment is harmed by a spite fence can file a claim for damages. So much for good fences making good neighbors!

Here are 14 things your neighbors will never tell you.

Think you’re a savvy homeowner? Check out this video for some things every homeowner must know.

Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.