What Is A Homeowner’s Association (HOA)
A homeowner’s association is also referred to as an HOA. An HOA is an organization within a planned community such as a subdivision or condominium complex. An HOA is put in place for one of two reasons there is common ownership or there are restrictive covenants to be adhered to by its residents.
A condominium will have both commonality and restrictions. The homeowner's associations' job is to manage and govern the members of the HOA.
Those who purchase a home under the authority of an HOA automatically become a member of the HOA and fall under any rules and regulations set forth. An owner is bound to the HOA through the restrictions in their deeds referencing recorded documents such as the Declaration of Trust and Bylaws.
I will mostly be discussing how a home owners association functions when you purchase a condo.
Who Runs A Homeowners Association?
The day to day operations of the HOA is run by elected board members. Procedures of who and how are all set forth in the Declaration of Trust. The board members are elected by the entire HOA membership.
How the homeowners association is run, varies greatly from complex to complex. As an HOA member, you can have an understanding by reading the bylaws. How board members are elected what and how they do are all spelled out in a recorded document or documents.
Condominium HOA Fees
Usually being a member of a homeowner’s association means you will be charged a monthly fee. Call it what you may condo fees, HOA fees, etc.... But they are all intended to keep the HOA running.
HOA fees can have a wide swing in the monthly fee. There are many things that influence the monthly fee.
Amenities like pools and gym can certainly and to your monthly fees. An association that has not kept up on maintenance can be saddled with deferred maintenance which can affect your fee. Complexes may have more common areas than others that need to be maintained.
All of that can go into determining the monthly HOA fee you are charged. Make sure you know upfront what is included in your monthly condo fees.
Some items that may be included in your condo fee are:
- Maintenance of building and structures- painting, roof replacement, deck repairs paving etc....
- Master Insurance Policy to insure the premises.
- Snow removal
- Refuse removal
- Road and parking lot maintenance
- Utilities for common areas- lit and heated hallways, street lights, clubhouses, pools, etc...
- Reserve funds for future capital improvements or unseen repairs.
These are just some basic line items that could be covered by your monthly HOA fee. At the end of the day, a budget needs to be met, if expenses go up so do condo fees.
The Basic Responsibility Of An HOA
Board members are to act on behalf of all the members of a homeowner’s association and their best interest. Basic responsibilities can be:
- Property maintenance
- Collecting HOA fees and any late charges
- Maintaining insurance
- Recording and maintaining all pertinent documents and amendments
- Managing financial records
- Policing the HOA members and levying fines if necessary.
Often in larger associations, much of the management is done by a third party management company and overseen by the board members. There are property management companies that specialize in providing the right mix of services for an HOA.
Covenant Restrictions And Playing By The Rules
When it comes time to buy a condo and signing on the dotted line, you are agreeing to accept the restrictive covenants and the rules and regulations of the complex.
Rules and restrictions can be varied. Some HOA's have tons of rules and restrictions and others are minimal.
Covenant restrictions restrict how you use the property. You certainly will have covenant restrictions in a condo complex and will sometimes see them in subdivisions. They can include:
- Restrictions on fencings and outbuildings
- How high you cut your grass
- Landscaping- what you can and can't plant, if you can even plant, etc...
- Parking- how many cars you can have, where to park, no commercial vehicles, etc...
- The use of satellite dishes
- What color you can paint
- The type of windows and doors you use
- the list can go on.....
The point of restrictive covenants is to keep uniformity throughout the complex or subdivision.
The rules and regulations are set forth to give peaceful enjoyment to all the HOA members and can include:
- Quiet hours
- Pet regulations
- Where and how to park
- Whether you can have a grill or not
- Use of common areas
- Decorating your exterior seasonally
- and again the list can go on and on.....
Can a homeowner’s association enforce their rules?
Remember you have agreed to live by the rules and regulations when you bought, then yes as long as it is within the law, they can enforce.
Actions taken can be for you to remove or alter or there can be fines levied for other behaviors.
The key is for the HOA to enforce rules they must have it recorded with the registry of deeds.
Living With Your Home Owners Association
HOA's can be a thorn in your side or greatly appreciated. Much depends on you.
Before purchasing a condo, make sure you read all the documents and determine if the restrictions and rules are something you can abide by. Ask the agent for all of the condominium documents for you to review.
Maybe owning a home under an HOA is not for you. You do lose some control and there are rules to follow.
On the other hand, much of the maintenance and regulations are handled by someone else and you can enjoy your home peacefully.
HOA Members Can Expect The Following
- HOA members deserve a quick response to reasonable inquiries.
- Homeowners should have access to all financial records and documents.
- HOA members should get a timely notice and a fair opportunity to be heard if the HOA intends to take disciplinary action against them.
- HOA members deserve consistent treatment in the enforcement of rules and regulations.
- HOA members deserve a reasonable opportunity to vote in important elections or to appoint another to vote on their behalf.
Participating In Your Homeowners Association
Participating in your HOA is a great way to stay informed so there are no surprises. And, possibly change the outcome of some matters.
Think about running to become a board member. Make sure you attend all the meetings that you are allowed to attend. Read your bulletins and meeting minutes. Be pro-active.
If there is something you feel strongly about getting other members to support you can influence the board members.
Doing nothing will keep you in the dark until there is a change you weren't aware of. Participating keeps you informed and allows you to have some control.
The best advice I can give you is before you buy into a complex, read the documents. Everything should be spelled out for you.
In my experience, most disgruntled homeowner association members are disgruntled because they don't know the rules and have not taken the time to understand them.
Secondly, be involved. It is a great way to meet new people and keep up to date on what is going on with your homeowner's association.