Are you looking at homes in a Homeowners Association (HOA)? It is entirely possible that you are since more than 62 million Americans live in communities governed by an HOA. The purpose of an HOA is to maintain the standards of the community, including its appearance, condition and general livability. However, living in such a community also can limit what homeowners can do to their property, which can sometimes be a source of conflict.
The HOA’s board of directors might have a say, for example, in where you park, the number of pets you have or what color you paint your front door. They may also levy special assessments. If you are moving into an HOA community, knowing how to avoid or resolve issues can be valuable. Consumer advocates at HowStuffWorks.com provide a few basic tips:
Know the bylaws. Read through the deeds and covenants so that you clearly understand them. If you have a passion for pink flamingos on your front lawn or you own an RV which you plan on keeping in your driveway, you may discover that the HOA has a rule about that. Be sure you know before you buy that home. The HOA rules are there to be enforced.
Pay dues on time. If you fall behind, the association can foreclose on your home, auction it off and evict you. At a minimum the penalties will compound and if they hire an attorney to collect the past due fees, it will be that much more expensive. Stay current!
Pay any fines. If you are fined for an infraction of the HOA bylaws, you can ask for a variance. If you don’t get it, however, you’ll have to pay the fine or go to court. Unpaid fines can also trigger foreclosure and if nothing else, become more expensive.
Attend board meetings. Scheduled association meetings are open to community residents. Attending them, and getting to know your board members and the way they handle routine business, as well as issues and complaints, can go a long way toward easing problems. I recently saw a post of Facebook from a friend who lives in an HOA community. The scheduled Board meeting to discuss the budget was open to all 396 homeowners in the community. He was the only one who attended the meeting other than the Board members who had to be there.
Run for a seat. If there is a vacancy on the board of directors, offer to fill it. Knowing the kinds of issues that come up, and how the board typically handles them can be helpful.
Seek approval for changes. Before you build that chicken coop in your townhouse back yard, seek board approval. If they object, listen to their reasoning and consider how your intended project might affect your neighbors. The HOA probably has rules concerning paint colors, shutter styles, roof shingles, front doors and even exterior lighting. Before you make changes, find out what is allowed and ask for permission for a variance. Repainting your new front door back to the allowed color will be annoying. Replacing your new roof with a conforming shingle will be annoying and VERY expensive.
Talk with your neighbors. If you have an issue, some of your neighbors may have the same problem. Approaching the HOA calmly with a number of residents experiencing a common issue can be helpful in getting it resolved.
If you have an issue, put it in writing. If your HOA is unresponsive to written communication, contact the directors by phone. If they don’t address a legitimate concern, you may need to seek legal advice.
There are many positive reasons to choose to live in a home with a home owners association, particularly if you don't like plastic pink flamingos! If you like knowing that there are rules governing the appearance of your home and your neighbors and you like the amenities which frequently go along with a home owners association, such as a pool or common areas, you may choose to live in an HOA. In the DC metro area they are typically newer communities outside the Beltway. If you dislike the concept of a book of rules which can control the color of your front door, or at least the procedure to change it, then you might want to look for a home that is not in an HOA. In the DC metro area these are typically in older communities inside the Beltway.
Regardless of where you want to live, if you need help starting the search process, just give the Lise Howe Group a call at 240-401-5577 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To start your search right now, just click here.