If you’ve ever looked at or lived in a home in a subdivision, chances are that the property was a part of a homeowners’ association, or HOA. But, what exactly does this mean? Here’s a look at the answers to the most frequently asked questions about homeowners’ associations:
What is the purpose of an HOA?
An HOA is responsible for enforcing rules regarding the properties within a subdivision. Having an HOA will ensure that everyone within the community takes good care of their property and maintains its appearance. As a result, homeowners will never have to worry about an unkempt property lowering the value of the other homes in the neighborhood. HOAs are also responsible for maintaining common areas within the community.
What rules will I need to follow?
The rules that homeowners must follow will vary from community-to-community. Some examples of HOA rules include restrictions on:
- The color of the home’s exterior
- The color of the front door
- Installing a visible satellite dish
- Having a basketball hoop or other recreational equipment in your front yard
- Window coverings visible from the street
- Types of fences
- Types of pets
- Types of mailboxes
These rules are established to ensure all homes within the community maintain a certain appearance. However, the rules seriously restrict what homeowners can and cannot do on their property. If you are interested in buying a home in an HOA community, it’s important to ask for a copy of its rules prior to making an offer. You need to make sure you are comfortable with the restrictions set by the HOA.
Why do I have to pay the HOA?
Homeowners that live in HOA communities must pay fees either monthly or quarterly. The fees will vary from community-to-community, but they typically fall between $200 to $400.
The money collected from homeowners is used to maintain landscaping, common areas, and amenities within the community. For example, let’s say there is a recreational center in the community. If the center is ever in need of repair, the HOA will use fees collected by homeowners to cover the cost. Fees would also be used to maintain the center and ensure it is fully staffed.
Can the HOA charge additional fees?
Sometimes, an HOA may ask homeowners within a community to pay another fee in addition to the monthly or quarterly fee. However, this should only occur when the HOA does not have enough money saved to cover the cost of a needed repair.
For example, let’s say the roof of the recreational center needs to be replaced. The HOA realizes that the monthly fee collected from homeowners will not be enough to cover the cost of this repair. The roof must be repaired right away to avoid further damage, so the HOA decides to charge homeowners an additional fee to raise more money. In this case, the HOA is justified in its decision to charge homeowners another fee since the money will be used to make necessary repairs.
Who is in charge of the HOA?
In some communities, the residents take turns serving as the head of the HOA. However, in other communities, a single resident is appointed as the head of the HOA for a certain number of years. Sometimes, the head of the HOA is not a resident in the community. The community could decide to hire an independent residential property management company to take control of the HOA instead of handing this power over to someone in the neighborhood.
What happens if I violate one of the HOA’s rules?
Homeowners must comply with the HOA rules or they will face serious consequences. The exact consequences for violating an HOA rule are outlined in the contract between the homeowner and HOA. But in general, the HOA can impose fines on homeowners that fail to pay fees or violate the rules of the community. If the homeowner continues to violate the rules or miss payments, the HOA may put a lien on the property or file a lawsuit against the homeowner.
If you are involved in a dispute with the HOA, it’s best to try to resolve it with them directly instead of dealing with the consequences. Meet with the head of the HOA and ask for a hearing on the matter so you have a chance to tell your side of the story.
At this point, you should understand the basics of HOAs. But, it’s important to ask your real estate agent or HOA contact if additional questions do arise. You should never purchase a home that is part of an HOA until you are certain you understand what being part of this organization means.