Unfortunately, owning a home doesn’t mean you get to call yourself the president of your own front yard. Those who govern your town or neighborhood get to make the rules about what you put on display for the public. Restrictions can come from your city, community, or homeowners association (HOA), or even a group of nosy neighbors. Certain items or activities could either be outright banned or require a permit.
What Could Be Banned from Your Front Yard?
Gnomes, flamingos, reindeer, angels, frogs: they’re not always welcome in your neighborhood. Whether your HOA wants a more uniform neighborhood or your neighbors are outright offended by your yard art, you could be forced to take these trinkets down.
Not all neighbors like your green thumb or year-round fresh veggies. Whether you’ve got bodies or turnips under the surface of your front lawn, someone may make a stink about it sooner or later. Many communities have even banned front-yard gardens.
Dirty or clean, some folks don’t want you airing your laundry in public — no matter how cute your SpongeBob boxers are. In Great Neck, Long Island, you could be slapped with a $1,000 fine or 15 days in jail for contributing to a possible nightmare of laundry-littered streets. Heaven forbid.
Whether it’s a couch on your porch or an old ratty one labeled “free” sitting in your front yard, your community could be embarrassed by such a large embellishment.
A tree house may seem like a harmless, trivial thing to a homeowner with kids, but some cities may require a building permit for the thing. If your kids are sporting telescopes in their hideaway, your neighbors may have some privacy issues with the structure as well.
Many towns — in fear of you turning your yard into a full-time thrift shop, enforce regulations on yard sales and garage sales. Such restrictions could include the number of sales you can have per year and how many consecutive days they can run; the number and sizes of signs you may use to advertise; permitted sale hours; and, perhaps, a pricey permit fee.
Naked kids seem innocent enough, but one potty-training toddler earned his family a $2,500 fine for peeing in his parents’ front yard last year.
Even a cute little lemonade stand run by your little ones could land you with some hefty fines for doing business without a license. Your kids could be required to obtain a business license, peddler’s permit, and/or a food permit, especially if there are larger licensed vendors setting up shop nearby and especially during large local events.
Your HOA may enforce certain maintenance requirements or botanical restrictions for your lawn. A dying lawn could get you a stern letter asking you to water more (what water shortage?).
Do Property Owners Have Rights?
You have a right to own land, but that doesn’t mean it’s your own country. Government can tell you what to do, on or off your own land, so read up on your city ordinances (and maybe get a feel for your neighbors’ tastes) before spattering your lawn with a display of statues, vegetables, furniture, or what have you.