Know your homeowners association's bylaws -- and follow them. It's also good to read through the rules, covenants and deeds to find arbitrary ones, like one that might prohibit parking a pickup truck in your driveway. Florida resident Anthony Colecchia, a retired New York City firefighter who required extra legroom in his car for medical reasons, learned that the hard way. Sports utility vehicles were fine, according to his HOA, but the pickup truck he owned and parked in his driveway violated a particular bylaw, and his HOA sued him [source: Farley]. Other common covenants regulate fences, the number of rooms in your house, building materials, and even the color -- and shade of that color -- you can paint your house.
Also, know if one bylaw puts another at odds. Another Florida resident, Deborah Waldbillig, who had taken in six puppies, installed a fence so they could run around while she underwent chemotherapy. The HOA required dogs be contained in a fence or on leashes, but it also required getting the fence approved. Before Waldbillig and her husband could get approval, they installed a fence anyway, so the HOA had them take it down. The ordeal even resulted in legal action [source: Pensa].