If you are buying a condo, townhouse, or free-standing home in a neighborhood with amenities such as a shared swimming pool, tennis courts, or parking garages, odds are that there will be a homeowner’s association (HOA). But, what is an HOA and how will it affect your quality of living?
What is an HOA?
An HOA helps the community maintain a pristine appearance and make sure that all amenities and common areas are functioning smoothly. If something is broken, it is not up to the homeowners to fix it. Instead, the HOA is responsible for getting the job done.
Fees vary immensely from neighborhood to neighborhood. The number and size of amenities in the neighborhood affect how much you’ll need to pay each month. Fees can also vary within your development. These can be for many different reasons, including the square footage, location, and orientation of your home, as all these factors will affect how much upkeep your property will need.
HOAs are made up of homeowners in the community, who are elected by other homeowners. Board members will set up regular meetings to discuss major decisions and issues within the community. Homeowner’s associations don’t solely focus on the common areas of a community. They also have rules regarding your own home. A copy of these rules and regulations, called covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), are given to homeowners upon moving in, where they are required to sign a contract saying that they will abide by the rules.
Some examples of things that are often covered in a CC&R are:
- Type of mailbox
- Size and breed of dog (some HOAs will require additional insurance for breeds such as pitbulls, or will prohibit breeds entirely)
- What color you paint your house
- What kind of curtains to use if windows face the street
- How long your lawn can grow
Before moving in, be sure to get a copy of the HOA rules so that you know what you will be required to do (or not to do). If you can, try to attend a HOA meeting before making your final decision.
What happens if you violate the rules?
Just like the fees, consequences for breaking the rules vary from development to development. If you break the rules, or fall behind in dues, management could be able to evict you from your property. Some HOAs even have the right to foreclose on your property if you don’t follow the rules or don’t pay your dues.