homeowners-association-basicsHomeowners Associations have grown up all over the USA over the past few years. What are the benefits of membership, and is there a downside to membership of an HOA? Opinion is mixed between those who like living in a well organized housing development and those that feel it to be too restrictive.

The prime purpose of a Homeowners Association is to represent the residents and their wishes, and like any democracy, not everybody can agree with every decision made. In fact, some feel that the tentacles of the HOA do not extend far enough while others feel it to be a restriction on their freedom as a homeowner.  Here are some of the pros and cons.

Homeowners Associations Maintain Order

Most people have heard about neighbors that run a business from their home, even if they have not experienced one. That is generally OK, but if it means turning their front yard and drive into a junkyard, and a repository for old cars and oil leaks, then it can be annoying. Even more annoying if they are hammering away from 6 am till midnight!

It can be just as annoying if certain people allow their dogs to deposit their waste on the sidewalks or in the park that the kids use to play in. Homeowners Associations can tackle such issues, and even issue fines to those that infringe the community rules.

Homeowners Associations are Legal Entities

If a community has adopted a Homeowners Association, sometimes referred to as a community association, then membership is mandatory by law. The association can set bylaws and covenants to which every resident must conform. Failure to do so can result in action, and if that guy continues to allow his dogs to soil the playing field, there are three levels of action that can be taken against him;

1. The Letter: A letter can be sent to the offender requesting that he or she ceases carrying out the action that is found offensive. This letter would normally be sent by the Association’s property manager or the board of directors. If that is ignored:

2. Fines: The offender can be fined up to $150 per day for each violation. If that is not paid:

3. Legal Action: A lawsuit can be pursued, involving an injunction and an order to take the required action. The Homeowner Association can often recover costs associated with the legal action.

Architectural Restrictions

There may be architectural restrictions relating to external home improvements, or even restrictions on the color of paint you can use externally on your home. Examples of the former include sheds, outbuildings and even fences.

Some Associations are more restrictive than others, and you should check these out prior to purchasing your home in such communities. You cannot legally refuse to meet the requirements laid down once you have purchased your home.  So if you dream of having a bright yellow fence in front of your orange-painted home then live somewhere else!

Ask About the HOA Before Buying

Among the benefits is the fact that you may get help with maintaining your home, and you are unlikely to ever be annoyed by noisy neighbors.  Many Homeowners Associations are very unobtrusive, and simply enable you to live a peaceful life in your own community. Others tend to be more active, so ask around before making your mind up. It’s not something you can opt into or out of since membership is mandatory by law, and your monthly fee helps pay the expenses.

Homeowners Associations can promote harmony and uniformity within a community, but they can also be restrictive and costly. Some associations take on large projects, the costs of which must be shared by the community. You cannot refuse. You should therefore make sure that your local Association would be to your liking as part of your home inspection process.