Written by: Neil Hodge, Sales Associate
When you purchase a condominium, townhouse or another type of property in a planned development such as a leased land property or a gated community, you are obligated to join that community’s homeowners’ association (HOA) and pay monthly or annual HOA fees for the maintenance of common areas and the building. If you are considering purchasing one of these types of properties, you should be aware of the following basics about homeowners’ associations and how they work before you buy.
Let’s look at what HOAs are all about. HOA fees could range from $150 to $500 per month but can be higher. The more upscale the building and the more amenities it has, the higher the homeowners’ association fees are likely to be. In addition to monthly fees, if a major expense such as a new roof or a new elevator comes up and there aren’t enough funds in the HOA’s reserves to pay for it, the association may charge an extra assessment that can run into thousands of dollars.
Because multiple occupants live in the same building or complex, all residents of condominiums and townhomes must be equally responsible for maintaining the common areas such as landscaping, elevators, swimming pools, clubhouses, parking garages, fitness rooms, sidewalks, security gates, roofing and building exteriors. Many of these types of common areas, such as pools and tennis courts, also exist in subdivisions of single family homes. Regardless of whether the HOA governs the building or neighborhood, HOA fees help maintain the quality of life for the community’s residents and protect property values for all owners.
In addition to maintaining common areas, HOAs also set out certain rules that all residents must follow called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). In a common building, rules may include what color front door you may have, whether you can line dry your laundry outside, if you can have a satellite dish, the size and type of pets permitted, and so on. In many ways, these rules are like the kinds of rules apartment dwellers must follow.
In a subdivision with individual homes, regulations may include what color you paint your home, the exterior landscaping you plant, the types of vehicles you park on the street or in your driveway (for example, no RVs), permissible type and height of fences, and restrictions on window coverings for windows facing the street. If you want to do anything that differs from these rules, you will have to convince the HOA to grant you a variance, (which is probably unlikely to obtain).
No matter where you live, you are likely to be subject to city ordinances and restrictions related to the use of your property. HOAs add yet another layer of restrictions, and because their members are more likely to know what you’re up to, it is highly probable the HOA will enforce these rules.
What You Need Should Know
While there are laws governing the HOAs, these associations can still have a powerful impact on your rights as a homeowner. Before buying a property in a community that has an HOA you should review HOA Documents for that HOA and know the Laws Governing your City and State.
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