What Laws Govern Your Garage?

Posted on: 1 September 2015

The recent news about a teen who received a nasty note after painting her family's garage door to win a radio contest may beg the question -- what laws affect the way you decorate and use your garage door? Although this teen's application of garage door "graffiti" didn't break any local laws, there are a number of regulations and codes that can affect you if you choose to paint your garage door a wild color, allow a broken window to go unrepaired, or even simply have an overflow of boxes blocking entry through your garage door. Read on to learn more about some of the types of local laws and regulations that may govern the use, condition, and color of your garage door. 

What decor are you permitted to have on your garage door?

Many states don't bother to set forth laws or regulations about things as specific as garage door colors. However, some cities and towns and many local homeowners associations (HOAs) do have strict rules on the color, condition, and decor of your garage door. If you paint your garage door a wild color or allow graffiti or vandalism to remain uncorrected, you could find yourself facing a fine from your HOA until you've fixed the problem by repainting or replacing your garage door.

Certain stricter HOAs may also have rules regarding when holiday decor must be removed following the end of the holiday season. For example, you may be required to remove Halloween decorations by the first week of November or Christmas decorations shortly after the New Year holiday. Failure to do so could again result in fines from your HOA until you do get around to removing your decorations.

Are you required to repair a broken garage door?

If your garage door is broken, it's possible your city's laws could require you to make certain repairs in order to keep your home compliant with local building and fire codes. If your home is in violation of these codes, you'll be unable to sell it until these problems are repaired, and you may even be prevented from refinancing your mortgage.

A failure to repair certain types of garage door defects could potentially subject you to civil liability as well. For example, if the mechanism that causes your automated garage door to reverse once it senses something blocking the door is malfunctioning, a child or animal could be caught and injured (or even killed) by a closing garage door. You could then potentially find yourself on the receiving end of a wrongful death or small claims lawsuit. As U.S. federal law has required all garage door openers manufactured after 1993 to have a secondary safety reversing system, a failure of both reversing systems can indicate negligence on your part, which may increase your liability for any resulting injuries. 

It's best to hire a professional for garage door service to get issues diagnosed and fixed at an early stage to prevent them from becoming larger, more expensive problems.

What laws govern storage of items in your garage? 

If you're like most homeowners, you use your garage to store a variety of items -- everything from sports equipment to lawn implements. You may also use your garage to store boxes from previous moves or furniture or family heirlooms you haven't yet decided where to permanently keep. If these boxes take up too much space in your garage, or block necessary vents, exits, and entrances, it's possible you could be violating local fire codes. This can increase your risk of a home fire, as well as cause a fire to spread more quickly than if it began in an empty garage. 

Some jurisdictions allow fire departments to fine homeowners if it's found that the fire was caused by the homeowner's negligence or recklessness. It's important to reduce the risk of fire in your home and garage, not only to protect your belongings, but to minimize any possible liability caused by improper or dangerous storage of items in your garage. If a fire starting in your home is permitted to spread to surrounding buildings, you could be facing an expensive civil lawsuit.