Moving into an HOA community is a big step you should not take without proper research. Homeowners associations offer plenty of benefits, but they are not for everyone. As such, it is important to familiarize yourself with how HOAs work before deciding.
Everything You Need to Know Before Moving Into an HOA Community
Homeowners associations are very popular in the United States. The number of HOAs in the country has been steadily increasing since the 1970s. Given the advantages of HOA living, it is easy to see why they have become the prime choice for many homeowners. However, not everyone is cut out to live in an HOA.
Here’s what you need to know before moving into an HOA community.
1. They Serve a Good Purpose
Homeowners associations have the primary purpose of preserving property values. These associations achieve this by enacting and enforcing rules that maintain curb appeal and a high standard of living. Regular dues also play a big role in helping keep the community clean, safe, and operational.
2. Membership Is Usually Mandatory
While there are a few voluntary associations, membership in HOAs is typically mandatory. That means people who buy a home in an HOA automatically become members. Membership comes with certain responsibilities, including paying dues and following the rules.
3. They Have Great Amenities and Services
Most associations offer excellent amenities and facilities that only members can use. These can include but are not limited to swimming pools, fitness centers, clubhouses, private parks, golf courses, playgrounds, tennis courts, and walking trails. Associations also provide convenient services ranging from trash removal to landscaping.
4. You Need to Pay Fees
Homeowners associations have amenities to maintain and services to deliver consistently. They can’t do that without funds. An HOA’s main source of revenue comes from regular dues, which are fees that homeowners must pay to the association. Fees can vary depending on several factors, though average fees fall between $200 and $300 a month.
5. There Are Rules to Follow
Homeowners associations have rules and regulations that residents must follow. These rules can vary from one community to another, though they often cover topics such as noise, pets, rentals, and parking. By joining an HOA, homeowners agree to abide by these rules and accept the consequences of breaking them.
6. You Need Permission to Modify Your Home
Most HOAs have architectural standards or guidelines that homeowners must adhere to. These standards dictate what owners can and can’t do with their properties. For example, an HOA may only permit certain colors or certain types of materials. More often than not, homeowners need to secure approval from the HOA to make any additions, alterations, or improvements to their homes.
7. There Are Social Events
Homeowners can look forward to social gatherings or events in an HOA. These events bring people together and instill a sense of community in members. Social events can take many forms, including block parties, dinner parties, donation drives, fundraisers, festivals, and even physical activities.
8. You Have Maintenance Responsibilities
Homeowners have a duty to maintain their homes. This obligation is typically outlined in the governing documents of the association. Maintenance responsibilities cover a number of things, including landscaping or lawn maintenance, repainting, trash disposal, roof maintenance, and even driveway maintenance. In general, homeowners are responsible for their homes, while the HOA is responsible for common area maintenance.
9. Violations Come With Penalties
Associations typically have the authority to penalize homeowners who violate the rules. State laws and governing documents permitting, an HOA may charge a fine for these violations.
The penalties that come with nonpayment of dues are usually more severe. Associations may start with a late fee followed by a suspension of your privileges. In some cases, associations may even place a lien on your home and subsequently foreclose on that lien. It may seem harsh, but the reality is that you could lose your home if you fail to pay dues.
10. Special Assessments Are Possible
In addition to regular dues, homeowners can also face special assessments. Special assessments are additional or extra fees that an HOA may charge under certain circumstances. Typically, boards only levy this assessment in an emergency or if it is needed. Keep in mind that special assessments are unusual, and state laws and your governing documents may have provisions limiting them.
Tips for Moving Into an HOA Community
Navigating the ins and outs of homeowners associations can be tricky. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make living in an HOA community easier.
1. Familiarize Yourself With the Governing Documents
First, familiarize yourself with the association’s governing documents, particularly the bylaws and CC&Rs. The bylaws dictate how an HOA should operate and cover topics such as elections, voting power, board terms, and meetings. On the other hand, the CC&Rs stipulate the rights and obligations of both HOAs and homeowners.
Understanding your governing documents will help you adjust to the community quickly. When you know your rights and responsibilities, you can better protect yourself and avoid potential violations.
2. Ask for Financial Records
Before buying a home in an HOA, it is paramount that you review its financial information. Doing this will help you determine where an HOA lies financially. Is the HOA financially healthy? Is it spending its money wisely? This will also give you a better understanding of your potential financial obligations.
As a current member of the HOA, you are also generally entitled to these records. In California, Civil Code Section 5300 dictates the association’s responsibility to provide members with an annual budget report.
3. Don’t Miss a Payment
Defaulting on your HOA dues or special assessments carries hefty penalties. As previously explained, you may even lose your home. As such, make sure not to miss a payment. Even if your HOA is not performing as well as it should be, refusing to pay your dues as a protest is a bad idea.
4. Follow the Rules
An HOA’s rules serve a purpose. They exist to maintain curb appeal and a community’s living standard. As such, you should do your best to follow the rules, provided they are legal and reasonable.
5. Get Involved
Homeowners associations can’t function without the participation of the residents. Make the most out of your investment by getting involved. Homeowners have a voice and an influence over association matters. Attend meetings, vote on issues, and make your opinions known. You can even take it a step further by joining an HOA committee or the HOA board.
The Choice Is Yours
Moving into an HOA community is a big decision. Before jumping into anything, understand how homeowners associations work and what you can expect from living in one. This way, you can avoid potential disputes and disappointments. When it comes down to it, though, HOAs provide a lot of advantages, so they are well worth the investment.
First Equity Property Management serves homeowners associations in California. Call us today at 650.349.7233 or contact us online to learn more!