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6 Things You NEED to Know About Homeowner Associations

 (modified Aug 8, 2022)

The idea of a Homeowner Association is to set standards for a neighborhood, pool shared resources and provide services to benefit all residents. The best ones do a lot of good and can make life better for people that live in the community.

If you’re thinking about buying a home that’s governed under the umbrella of a Homeowner’s Association, it’s a good idea to do your homework. While most can make your life easier, that’s not always the case. Read on for the things you need to know about Homeowners Associations before buying your next home.

1. What is A Homeowners Association?

The best place to start is by clearly defining what a Homeowners Association is. Essentially, it’s an organization that develops rules and regulations for a neighborhood. There might be rules for what color your front door can be for example.

Some associations may also take care of lawn care and offer services such as community pools. All of these things are paid for by individual member dues. That’s why it’s important to know everything you can about a Homeowners Association or HOA before buying that dream home. Fees can be expensive, and you’ll have to consider that in your monthly budget.

2. How Can I Find My HOA?

There are a number of different ways you might go about gathering information on the HOA in a neighborhood. The association would usually be registered with your county and state. Most HOA’s also have a strong online presence these days where you can find all the information you need. You may also want to enlist the help of your real estate agent and/or lawyer to make sure you have the most complete picture of the HOA as possible.

Neighborhood governed by HOA

3. Who Regulates HOA’s?

For the most part HOA’s are regulated by the state you live in. If you’re moving from one state to another don’t assume that the Homeowner Association laws are the same — there can be significant differences from state to state. Consult with your real estate agent to make sure you’re aware of any differences that could affect you. There are also federal laws that affect how HOA’s are governed so it’s a good idea to know how they work as well so you understand your rights and whether or not your Homeowners Association may be violating them.

4. What Are HOA Fees?

Living in a community that falls under a Homeowners Association can have many benefits, but they do involve a cost that you’ll want to consider before you make the move. Standard fees apply no matter what type of dwelling you live in whether it’s a townhouse, condo or a standalone detached family home.

HOA fees apply to anyone that owns a home that’s within the boundary of a Homeowners association. Each HOA will set their own fees and the amount of these fees will depend on many things, such as the types of benefits and amenities that the HOA offers. Fees usually range between $200 and $300 per month, but they can be higher in some areas, that’s why it’s best to know what the monthly fees are before you move in.

Many Homeowner Associations provide information about their benefits and fees on a website. If they don’t have one, request documentation so that you have a clear understanding about what the fees are and what they entail. Your real estate agent will also be a great source of information on the HOA and their fees as well.

One other thing to keep in mind is that you must pay your HOA fees even if you don’t plan on taking advantage of the benefits or amenities on offer. There’s no opt in or opt out option — if you live in the community, you’re required to pay the fees. Penalties for nonpayment of fees may range from a set fine to a lien being placed on your home.

Cul de sac governed by HOA

5. What Do HOA Fees Cover?

So, what exactly do HOA fees cover? That’s a great question and the answer is it can cover a range of different things. Each HOA sets their own agenda and determines what the benefits are that they offer to anyone living in the community. Some are very basic, while others offer many tangible benefits to each homeowner. Of course, they do have to comply with any local, state and federal laws that apply to HOA’s as well.

In some cases, the HOA fees are only used for general property maintenance in common areas such as cutting the lawn, trimming the weeds and shoveling snow in the winter if you live in a cold climate. There are no other physical benefits in these cases and fees are usually low.

Other HOA’s may offer a range of different benefits to homeowners such as well maintained parks, community centers, pools, tennis courts and walking trails. If your HOA sits on a lake, fees may also be used to help maintain the quality of the water.

HOA fees can also be used to cover more practical costs such as garbage collection, sewer and water systems and building repair costs for HOA owned facilities.

If you’re considering moving into a community because of the amazing amenities provided by the HOA that operates there, just keep in mind the monthly fees are probably significant — in some cases they may be as high as $1000 per month. These are fees you’ll have to pay every month on top of your mortgage.

Residential lawncare by the HOA

6. What Are Some Examples of HOA Rules and Regulations?

There are a number of different ways that HOA’s might regulate how you live your life. Most of these rules are relatively benign and easy to live with, but some of them may surprise you. Here are 7 things about HOA’s that you should know before buying a home.

They Can Regulate Parking

Do you have too many cars to park them all in your driveway? If your new home falls under a HOA you may not be able to park them on the street. They may have rules stating that this isn’t allowed under the Covenants and Regulations. Parking restrictions may also prevent you from parking that nice new motor home in your driveway, forcing you to find alternative arrangements.

Laws May Be Different in Each State

For the most part, HOA’s are governed by State law and each state may have their own ideas about what a HOA should be allowed to control and what they shouldn’t be able to do. If you are moving to a new state, into a home under a HOA make sure you know all of the HOA’s rules as well as your rights under that States law as well as federal law.

HOA’s May Not Be Pet Friendly

If you have a best friend that also happens to be four legged, make sure you know your HOA’s rules before moving in. Some may restrict the types of pets you can own, or they may just have restrictions on larger breeds of dogs. Everyone is different, so make sure you ask the right questions beforehand so you won’t run into issues with your HOA over your dog or cat.

Fencing Could Be Restricted

You may run into another potential problem if you’re planning on installing a nice fence for privacy, keeping pets in or protecting young children. Some HOA’s may restrict the height of your fence or even ban them all together if they don’t feel it fits the aesthetic they’re trying to achieve. An alternative to fencing is to use privacy trees, but it's worth checking about those too. It’s best to have your real estate agent check for any fencing restrictions before signing on the dotted line.

That New Addition May Not Be Allowed

If you’ve lived in a home for a while without any problems with the local HOA, you may run into them if you try to build an addition on your home. In many cases they will have regulations governing what the exterior of your home should look like — they often don’t want a home that stands out from the overall look of the neighborhood. Before making any expensive additions it’s best to consult your HOA first.

Keep That Grass Trimmed!

Some people love to cut their lawn twice a week, for others it’s more of a chore. If you like to cut your lawn every other week you may be paid a visit by a member of the HOA. Most HOA’s have some rules governing the length of your lawn and ignoring them could result in a fine. They may even have rules about the types of flowers, trees and other vegetation you grow in your gardens.

Laundry Lines May Be Frowned On

If you love the smell of fresh laundry blowing in the breeze on the line in your backyard, that might not be possible under your HOA. Many HOA’s may have rules in place that prevent you from doing this. They may feel it looks out of place or brings down the overall appeal of the neighborhood. If you decide to go against your HOA and hang that laundry outside anyway, it could result in a fine.

Final Thoughts

An HOA can be of great benefit to you and your family. They often offer extra services such as gated security, community centers and pools. Many also have some restrictive rules on what your property can look like, such as what color you paint your door, or if you can even have a small, low maintenance garden. Only you can decide if living under an HOA is right for you. As long as you know all the rules and regulations that govern HOA’s in your state and the rules of the HOA you’ll be living under, you’ll have many years of enjoyment in your new home.

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