Home Owners Associations are also referred to as HOAs, by definition these are formal legal entities created to maintain common areas in either a neighborhood or building. These entities have the authority to enforce rules and covenants as well as levy fines and implement deed restrictions. With rules, fines and restrictions, there are definite pros and cons of an HOA.
Home Owners Associations essentially act as the governing organization for a particular community the HOA oversees things like covenants, restrictions, amenities and common area maintenance.
The responsibilities of a homeowner's association can range from basic oversight of the neighborhood’s summer picnic, all the way to very detailed oversight of most aspects of the community. We see this type of heavy involvement mostly in condominium associations where there are common interests like pools, clubhouses, parks, and playgrounds. Since the ownership of these common amenities is shared fractionally amongst the owners the HOA is in charge of managing these interests.
It is important to understand the different types of Home Owners Associations before we can look at the Pros and Cons of living with an HOA.
Types of HOAs
There are three main types of HOAs, and each type varies in terms of how they control your status as a homeowner and the amenities they provide to the community. They include:
- Mandatory HOAs – Mandatory HOAs are compulsory for everyone living in the neighborhood, and there’s no provision for one to opt-out. You’ll always be a member of the HOA as long as you live in the neighborhood. They generally control substantial neighborhood amenities. These include tennis courts, the pool, playgrounds, a clubhouse, and the formal entryway into the neighborhood. Members are required to pay HOA fees, either annually, semi-annually, quarterly, or on a monthly basis. Members are also required to sign covenants and restrictions, which include bylaws on you agree to adhere to while living on the premises.
- Voluntary HOAs – Voluntary HOAs are simply informal neighborhood associations that are formed to deal with specific issues affecting the neighborhood. Voluntary HOAs have no legal standing, and they don’t have compulsory HOA fees. They usually take care of circumstances that pose a threat to the neighborhood, or just organize some seasonal parties. Voluntary HOAs have small dues, which are not compulsory to the members of the HOA.
- Condominium HOAs – This is much like a mandatory HOA; the only difference is that condominium HOAs provide and takes care of substantial amenities. When you buy a home in a neighborhood with a Condominium HOA, you only own the interior of your unit. The exterior, including the walls, roof, and surroundings are owned by the HOA. This means that they take care of exterior improvements and repairs, including roof replacements, pavements, landscaping, sidings, and window repairs as needed. They also cover the exterior home insurance of the property and cover for other environmental services like landscaping and snow removal.
What HOAs Do
HOAs have board members who are usually elected by members of the HOA. These board members usually set up meetings where homeowners gather and discuss major issues and improvements needed in the community. For issues that require huge budgets, all members of the HOA are required to vote, the decisions on minor issues are handled by members of the board.
Besides managing the common areas in the neighborhood, HOAs also ensure that its members follow their rules and regulations to the latter. HOAs usually distribute a copy of the rules to the community semiannually or when a new member moves into the neighborhood. All members are required to sign the contract to show that they agree to abide by them.
HOA rules can cover anything that affects the community, including the type of mailbox, the size, and breed of your dog and type of machinery allowed in the neighborhood. Some HOAs will ask you to purchase extra insurance for specific breeds of dogs while others have restrictions that entirely prohibit certain breeds. Many associations also have rules that restrict the color you paint your house, the kind of curtains to use if your house faces the street and the length of your lawn.
In most scenarios, HOAs simply maintain the neighborhood aesthetic. However, some rules can seem very restrictive for a person who loves to customize his/her home and its surroundings.
What If You Violate HOA Rules?
The consequences vary from one HOA to the other depending on the location and type of HOA. But still, if you break any of the rules, or delay in paying your HOA dues, you may get in trouble. Consequences include being evicted from your property if you are renting. The HOA has the ability to define homeowners. In the event those fines are not paid they can place a lien against the property. So ensure you read and fully understand your association's rules before signing them. This will make you aware of what to expect when you violate any of the terms.
PROS AND CONS OF HOA
Pros of an HOA
Homeowners receive numerous benefits when living in a neighborhood with an HOA. These benefits include:
- HOA memberships protect property values: Apart from making homeowners accountable to deed restrictions, HOAs ensure that common areas in the neighborhood are constantly maintained, thus protecting the value of your property.
- Ease Access to community amenities: HOAs make it easy to access and maintain community amenities like pools, basketball & volleyball courts, and walking trails. They do this by staying current with assessments and ensuring the amenities are not misused by community members.
- They promote Community financial stability: HOAs have a systematic collection of resources and assessments. This helps the community to remain financially comfortable even when making improvements, repairing, and maintaining common areas.
- Some HOA rules and regulations prevent nuisance activities: Having an HOA in your neighborhood promotes a strong communication within the neighborhood. HOA also helps in watching groups that may deter problematic activities.
- HOAs present a sense of security in the community: HOAs promote community cohesion by organizing volunteering events where members know more about their neighbors. This helps in making homeowners comfortable and confident about their security.
- Maintenance of common areas of the neighborhood: HOAs takes care of common neighborhood areas by contracting third-party landscaping and lawn maintenance companies. This keeps lawns, walkways, and driveways in good condition.
- Promote community cohesion through community events and activities: Most HOAs organize Community gatherings and activities such as outdoor movie nights and national night that help in bringing the neighbors closer, thus increasing community pride.
- Architectural controls which assist in preserving the original community design: Some HOAs have restrictions on modifying the exterior of the houses in the neighborhood community. This retains the design and identity of a particular neighborhood. Members of the community are prevented from going way off base by painting their houses with random colors.
- Say Goodbye to Pests: Most HOAs will go an extra mile to eliminate pests in the neighborhood. They’ will provide pest control services and ensure that no scruffy dogs are running around the neighborhood, raccoons climbing into litter bins and termites destroying your walls.
The Cons of HOAs
Here are some disadvantages to living in HOA communities.
- Legal Restrictions- HOAs have legal terms, covenants, and restrictions for all homeowner members of the association. A covenant is a legal restriction that refrains you from doing something. Restrictions and conditions limit what one can do to his house or property. It's very important to read and understand these documents before buying a house in the association or before joining one. Some rules even limit the number of rental units in the neighborhood, and this may affect you in case you decide to rent out your home.
- Uniformity- While it’s a good practice to protect homeowners from customizing their home exteriors, these regulations mean that one cannot display his/her favorite holiday items-- even during the holidays. HOAs typically regulate the type and color of exterior paint, roofing types and colors and the materials used on outdoor patio covers. If you love working in your garage, HOAs can limit the amount of time you spend in your garage or even forbid you from doing test drives or drying your newly painted cars on your driveway. These limitations and their degree of enforcement solemnly depend on the zeal of the association board members or the director of the association. This may turn out as a disadvantage to some owners.
- Constant Maintenance: HOAs have strict rules and regulations that require you to attend to the maintenance of your house constantly. If you don’t have the time to do it, you should hire someone to do it for you, failure to which you may face the consequences.
- Increased Neighbor Disputes: As much as HOAs promote community cohesion, it also increases neighbor disputes. A neighbor may argue that you’re not following the rules and regulations, or maybe he may be mad at you for calling HOA on him for something else.
- Foreclosure Is Possible: Sometimes, HOAs are capable of foreclosing on your home when you don’t pay the fees. These regulations normally vary from one state to another. Although foreclosure only occurs in rare cases, it’s still something one should consider before buying a house in an HOA.
- Extra Fees: In the event that your HOA proposes to a major project, but it doesn’t have the funds to complete the project, the HOA usually imposes a special assessment on the homeowners in the division. In fact, 70 percent of HOA projects are underfunded, which means that the probability of avoiding extra fees isn’t is very low.
While some people love living in detached family homes, others opt for the convenience of living in condos and gated communities. Living in a house that has HOA can be great for family owners. However, if you find the fees, rules, maintenance, and other unknown risks of living in an HOA controlled community to be too much, you might restrict your home search to non-HOA communities.