Being a homeowner comes with a list of responsibilities. Home appliances and furniture need to be upkept and bills need to be paid. Sometimes it feels like house maintenance never ends and you might need some help or at least some tips. Living in a home not only requires upkeep for the homeowner’s personal preference but it also requires maintenance for the Homeowners Association (HOA). Many residents wonder: How much power does an HOA have? In short, within various states and communities, it varies.
The Homeowners Association is typically part of every community and is present to uphold rules in the community and protect property value. Anything acting outside of the scope of the Homeowners Association’s responsibilities does not have to be enforced by residents. It is important, however, to abide by the HOA’s rules in order to avoid a battle with the association. Non-compliance with HOA restrictions has forced some owners out of their homes due to a foreclosure by the HOA. If a resident is wondering whether their HOA is acting out of their scope of responsibility for the community, they need to remember:
The HOA Can:
1. Create specific rules and regulations for residents of their community to follow – Since the HOA has authority over the specific community that it governs, they are allowed to create regulations for the residents of that community to follow. When a new resident moves into their new place of residence, they must agree to the HOA rules in order to live in that community. The HOA rules are spelled out in the homeowner’s contract that must be signed before they officially move in. Although some HOA’s are more lenient, others can get very particular about the rules within the community.
2. Enforce rules and regulations by law – Since the HOA requires that all new residents of the community agree to the HOA regulations by signing a contract, it is legally binding. HOA has the legal power to require residents to abide by the terms of their contract. Most HOA’s have rules on unkept lawns. If a homeowner receives a request from the HOA to cut their lawn because it has grown too high and breaks community guidelines, the resident must comply. HOA also has specific rules on important items such as trash disposal, building on property, and restrictions on home exterior paint which can affect the home value.
3. Force a home into foreclosure for non-compliance – Given that all homeowners within a specific HOA signed a contract to live in the community, the HOA can enforce the legal consequences of non-compliance with regulations. For example, if a homeowner fails to pay HOA fees, the HOA has the right to force a foreclosure on the home for failure to pay. For this reason, it is very important to know the articles of the HOA and abide by them.
4. File a lien on the home– If homeowners don’t pay their annual dues to the association or pony up the money for an assessment, the HOA can file a lien on the home. You might protest and argue that you don’t even go to the clubhouse or don’t use the gym, but it doesn’t matter. Every homeowner in the community is obligated by the association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R) to pay a share for all the community property. By not complying with the rules, the HOA can file a lien and cloud the home’s clear title. This can become a real issue when the homeowner tries to sell the property or refinance.
The HOA Can Not:
1. Take away rights already given to homeowners by the government. As a resident within an HOA, you must abide by the HOA articles. This does not mean that the HOA can take away rights that citizens are given by the government. If a homeowner decides that they want to fly the American flag outside of their home, the HOA is not allowed to deny that right. However, the HOA can dictate the size of the flag and how it is being flown. The HOA also cannot deny certain things like garbage disposal, but they can restrict when and where residents place their garbage for disposal and what days it is picked up.
Do you have to join an HOA?
Knowing how much power an HOA has and what they can or cannot do might make you hesitate to become a member of the association. But is that even an option? Some home buyers may not want to live with any HOA restrictions; therefore, if you decide to buy a home within an HOA, can you refuse to join?
With more than 350,000 homeowners associations in the US, overseeing 53% of owner-occupied homes, it is very unlikely that you will find a home in a community that is not run by an HOA structure. However, there are two types of HOAs; voluntary and mandatory association.
As a homeowner in a community with a voluntary HOA, you are not obligated to join it. However, if you refuse to join, there are some downsides, and usually, that means that you are denied common facilities such as pools, tennis courts, or clubs that are exclusively for HOA members. If you opt-out, you can’t use the facilities supported by HOA fees unless you pay to use them.
You can refuse to join a voluntary association, which means that they cannot enforce HOA rules on nonmembers. Receiving a fine for overgrown grass or levy assessments to fix potholes is something the HOA cannot do if the person concerned is not a member.
As the name might suggest, buying a home in a community with a mandatory HOA doesn’t give you a choice about joining. You can’t even close on your real estate purchase without signing the documents agreeing to abide by the HOAs rules and pay any fees, assessments, or fines.
A mandatory HOA is a structure where homeowners automatically become members when a home purchase is made in that community. Mandatory associations typically maintain common facilities, but they also enforce covenants and restrictions around your home. Things such as painting your door bright pink, housing 20 dogs and 10 cats, or parking an RV or work vehicle in the driveway most likely won’t be possible in a community with mandatory HOA’s.
Owning a home in an area that doesn’t have an HOA instituted allows you as a homeowner to refuse to join it if one is forming in the future. It’s a rare occurrence, but it is possible to opt-out of joining if they are discussing forming an HOA. Make sure that you talk with a lawyer since different states offer different levels of protection to homeowners, and you want to be aware of that.
The pros and cons of the Homeowners Association (HOA)
You are probably wondering, why would it be a good idea to join an HOA in the first place? It is essential to know that HOAs don’t just enforce rules and regulations on homeowners; they also have responsibilities towards the community. Therefore, living in a neighborhood with a homeowners association has its benefits and downsides. Here are some of them!
One of the benefits of a homeowner association has to do with a neat and clean neighborhood. Chances are you won’t have a neighbor with piles of trash in the yard or poor garden maintenance that affects your neighborhood’s aesthetics. HOA imposes rules related to trash storage and lawn maintenance to keep a clean environment and look.
Another advantage has to do with the fact that the HOA has the responsibility of maintaining community property. Things such as the upkeep of tennis courts, swimming pools, or other recreational areas fall under the HOA’s responsibility. Shared amenities and common areas in the neighborhood are likely to be maintained in good condition in a community with HOA.
In a community with an HOA, you can benefit from luxury amenities such as recreation centers, golf courses, pools, tennis courts, basketball courts, and many others. Because HOA deals with the maintenance of these places, it is less likely that you will see them in bad condition or deteriorating over time.
One of the disadvantages of living in a home that is part of a homeowners association has to do with the fact that you cannot design the exterior of your home however you want it. The association determines an acceptable house appearance, and all families have to line up with the HOA standard. That doesn’t mean that all homes have to be identical, but you can’t go overboard and paint your home with any color or decorate the home’s exterior however you want it.
The landscaping of your front yard and the home’s exterior may be scrutinized by the association. If you find the rules reasonable and they line with how you wanted your home to look anyway, the neighborhood might be right for you. Otherwise, you might want to consider other housing options.
Another cons has to do with the fact that HOAs have the power to foreclose properties or file a lien on a home if the homeowner breaks the rules or falls behind on HOA fees. Laws might vary by state, and they can limit the time it takes for HOA to foreclose on someone. If you went through the list presented above on what HOAs can and can’t do, you know what might follow as a result of breaking the CC&R.
HOA regulations can oftentimes be specific and complex. Some contracts with HOA rules can be harder to understand because of this and require the help of a professional to inform residents about their rights as a resident. For specific questions about the guidelines, rules, and regulations of the HOA in your community, contact a real estate agent today.
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