Real Estate 101

Top 4 Key Reasons to Know Your Local Government

posted by Hannah July 18, 2017 0 comments

Local government officials have the authority to implement stringent —and sometimes strange —regulations and requirements in communities.

In California, a 10-year-old girl was fined a total of $3,500 for her lemonade stand not meeting building code requirements. If you’re a married man in Iowa, you have the special privilege of barring your mother-in-law from your home. And, don’t even think about forgetting to resod your lawn in Florida, or you could end up behind bars.

And, although these are a few of the more odd examples, these all carry an important reminder. When it comes to selecting a home, it’s important to research the laws of the land. To help, we’ve provided a list of across the board regulations you’ll encounter with local government in nearly all cities.

Cash your Trash

While all states have litter laws, it is up to local government what constitutes a trashed home turf.

And, some are more strict than others. A program gaining traction in about 1,200 plus cities nationwide is known as the “Pay-As-You-Throw”. In cities such as Fort Worth, Texas, residents are required to pay for the amount of garbage service used.

Planning to take advantage of the upcoming mild temperatures to rake up those leaves or cleaning out the garage? You better plan ahead. Any additional bags of garbage outside cost $15 for a set of five. Or, a nice hefty fine of up to hundreds of dollars.

Also, don’t be lazy about dragging your garbage cans inside. Unless you’re a nocturnal creature, giant brownish green vehicles for garbage are not exactly aesthetically pleasing. But there are less-petty reasons for these regulations that have to do with the overall safety of the community.

Don’t Crack the Code

You’ve settled on the home of your dreams. Only, it’s lacking that guest bathroom you’ll need for when your mother-in-law comes to visit (unless you’re in Iowa). Even if the task is small, check with the city’s code enforcement prior so it doesn’t become a huge problem.

Many building laws and codes are made to keep professionals and homeowners safe. The main intent is to help limit property loss in certain emergency events. Properly constructed homes make it safe for first responders and ensure the safety of the surrounding community.

So, let’s say your neighbor’s newest addition to his over-the-top gaudy exterior —blinding white, faux columns — threatens your eyeballs. Code enforcement sees these catastrophes possessing the potential to take down a small village (or community) within a mile radius.

It’s also important, if you are buying a pre-existing home, to obtain its original specs. Some realtors run into properties that have illegally built rooms or extensions of the house. If this is the case, a potential homeowner could inherit a nice visit – and fee — from Johnny Law.

Grass isn’t Always Greener

Landscapes are often the best (and worst)  indicators of a community’s overall status. Nearly all species of colorful plants, trees and foliage can flourish if you possess a green thumb. In the case of local government laws, however, it’s best to pass on certain grass.

For example, you live in Kansas and recently invested in a couple of 60-foot Queen Palm trees. These tropical beauties provide a beachside atmosphere and safe, shady space from the hot sun. On the flip side, you’ve just put your neighbors’ lives at risk.

But how? Come Spring, and the “April showers” of tornado ally are often times accompanied by damaging, gale-force winds. This means your once personal paradise is now a hurricane nightmare. Your shady palm tree, and its limbs, are now uprooted and setting out on a destructive warpath. The aftermath of the damage ensued making you wish you could escape to the Land of Oz.

Even though its pretty easy to guess how certain storm-centered regions will affect trees, others, not so much. Luckily, there are always easy ways to know how local government enforces these types of code regulations. I also give you permission to poke around your potential neighbors’ lawns to get a feel for what’s expected.

Often it is not the city officials who will step in to delegate the dos and don’ts of lawn maintenance. If the community is regulated by a home owner’s association, it will be more than likely subject to their approval.

Know Thy Neighbor

Many local governments have saved money by ceding homeowner associations more authority. In fact, a large portion of HOA’s are responsible for public works such as streets and sewers.

Often, when you purchase into these homeowners associations you are giving up some of your constitutional rights. For example, most associations can and will fine you for leaving a garage door open. They can even seize your home over late dues.

A positive trade-off is the assurance that your home’s value, and quality of life are protected. There are ways to work with certain restrictions. However, your best line of defense is becoming acutely aware of the rules. Before purchasing your property, understand the challenges and perspective of HOAs. Try your best to follow the rules to a tee. Or, offer to help them gain community support for their initiatives.

Learn to Live Local

No matter where you decide to settle, there will always be general rules and guidelines to follow. Personally, I get it. There is nothing worse than having to adhere to silly rules. Think of it this way. Remember how your parents would berate you for not looking both ways before you cross the street? These are more often than not in response to keeping you, and the community, safe.

That being said, there are rewards. One of the most important responsibilities city and county officials have is guiding the physical growth of their communities. So, don’t move past your dream home because you’re prohibited from hosting your weekly backyard bonfire bonanza. Instead, try to consider why this rule is in place. Or, if this is an activity that you absolutely cannot do without, start a committee to advocate against the rule.

This generalized list barely reaches the surface when it comes to the various rules and regulations from local government. And, community is a term that consists of people dwelling in a home, condo, apartment or any residential area. With that said, we’d love to hear from you! If you have any additional tips, stories, feedback or insight you’d like to share, please comment below! 

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