Homeowners’ association (HOA) is usually a not-for-profit organization established by a community which governs rules regarding what can and cannot occur in homes, and also determines the rules and money spent on shared property. Many condominium and townhouses available for purchase are part of a homeowners’ association. As well, many new developments of single-family homes establish a homeowners’ association to hopefully protect the rights of all in the community.
Those who own property in the established area govern the homeowners’ association. Often, the greatest influence in condo complexes is held by a company that owns and rents several properties within the complex. When a person buys a home in an area with a homeowners’ association, he or she becomes a member of the HOA and is responsible for membership dues.
Many homeowners’ associations have fairly large membership fees, some around 300 US dollars (USD) monthly. Thus, the decision to purchase a house or condo belonging to an HOA should be considered from a financial point of view. Adding a high homeowners’ association fee may be prohibitive.
The first act of a homeowners’ association is to establish a set of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R). The CC&R establishes monthly dues for all homeowners, and can restrict the rights of the way a person can use his or her own property or joint property. For example, a CC&R may have rules governing the number of people who can occupy a house, the colors one can paint a house, or the times at which common areas like exercise rooms or pools can be used.
The CC&R of a homeowners’ association has the goal of making the property pleasant for all residents. However, potential purchasers should definitely speak with a few other homeowners prior to purchasing a house that comes with HOA membership. Some CC&Rs are more wish fulfillment than reality, and others are almost totalitarian in their control over an owner’s behavior.
One issue that seems to be of frequent issue in a homeowners’ association is maintenance of joint property. Some HOAs are excellent at providing things like gardening, outside repair, or pool upkeep. Others state in their CC&Rs that these things will be provided, but they are not done so in an acceptable or timely manner. In these cases, the member of the homeowners’ association has little legal redress, unless the whole HOA can organize to change the rules. This can be difficult to achieve in large communities.
The homeowners’ association may also cause difficulty for owners or renters if they do not strictly follow the CC&R. HOAs can assess fines, fees, or even evict those who do not abide by the CC&R, even if the infractions are minor. Renters in particular must be careful to understand the CC&R, since a clear understanding with the landlord should be established regarding the rights and responsibilities of the tenant in regards to HOA rules.
A successful HOA gives property owners a way to solve minor disputes, as well as to organize repair or maintenance of shared property. Many find the homeowners’ association to be well worth the extra fees associated with owning a property. When well administrated, the homeowners’ association can provide a certain predictability in owning a home, and clearly delineate both the homeowner’s and the association’s responsibilities.