An HOA is the governing body of the development or complex, usually comprising homeowners who have volunteered to serve on the HOA board. Below is some general information about HOA’s that you might find helpful.
Membership in the HOA Is Mandatory
When you buy a property governed by a homeowners’ association, you automatically become a member of the association. You don’t have the choice of not joining. The purchase of your home becomes a contract with the HOA. You agree that you’ll obey all the HOA rules and pay regular dues and any special assessments.
Rules for Homeowners
HOA rules are called covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). CC&Rs usually apply to both you, the homeowner, and to your home. The CC&Rs might cover what color you can paint your home, what you can plant in your yard, how many cars you can own and park, whether you can own a pet, and whether you can rent the property to someone else. There are usually noise restrictions, as well.
Rules differ between different HOA-governed communities, so carefully study the CC&Rs before you buy. Receiving a copy at closing is too late. Better to add a contingency to your purchase contract requiring that you receive, and have a chance to review the relevant governing documents (and perhaps have you attorney review them, too), well in advance of the closing.
Penalties May Be Imposed for Breaking HOA Rules
When a homeowner breaks a rule—for example, paints a house the wrong color, or brings in a dog that exceeds the weight restrictions—the HOA may take action. Legally speaking, many HOAs are corporations; that is, legal entities that can enforce contracts with their homeowners.
The action may simply be to require the homeowner to reverse the violation; perhaps repaint the house, or give away the dog.
However, another common penalty is requiring the homeowner to pay a fine. If the homeowner refuses to pay, the HOA can take more punitive steps, up to and including forcing the sale of the home via a lien foreclosure.
You Must Pay Dues and Special Assessments
Homeowners in a covenant-controlled development usually pay association fees or dues, either monthly or yearly, as part of their membership. How high the fees are depends on factors such as the amenities offered by the community and whether the HOA is adequately planning for the future; the typical range is from a couple hundred dollars a month up to over $1,000 a month.
HOAs primarily use the dues money for maintenance of common areas used by all the homeowners, such as walking paths, swimming pools, gyms, or recreation/community centers. Other expenses that HOA dues will cover include things like city utility services to the community, management fees and insurance premiums.
The HOA board may also decide to impose special assessments when needed, for example to deal with a needed improvement or emergency repair that’s not covered by insurance.
Advantages of HOAs
HOAs balance their restrictions with advantages. If all the homeowners follow the rules (or the HOA does its job and enforces the rules when homeowners break them), you avoid the problems that plague some neighborhoods, such as trash piling up in someone’s yard, or poor maintenance of gardens and roads.
Homeowner Education Documents
Your HOA knows homeowners and potential homeowners sometimes need more information to help them make the decision to buy in an HOA managed community.