7 Common Rules of Homeowner Associations (HOAs) You Should Know
Author: Andrew Reichek
HOAs are relatively new in many communities, especially in single-family neighborhoods. In fact, many homeowners aren’t aware of what they are or what purpose they serve. Also known as a homeowner association, according to US Legal, it’s an organization of homeowners who live within the same condo community, subdivision and/or planned development.
Early on, most homes in an HOA were located inside a gate or privately guarded entrance. However, the market has been changing. Today, many homes on public streets are also part of an HOA. The main purpose of this organization is to maintain and improve home property values within the community. Here, we have listed 7 common rules that you may find across many of these organizations which you will want to know.
Table of Contents:
1. You Must Pay Your Yearly Assessment
All HOAs will have a yearly assessment. The association will break the fees down to each individual unit. Collecting the association dues will depend on how it was originally set up—monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or yearly. Your dues will fund a variety of common elements including maintenance, improvements and insurance for the association.
If you have community areas like tennis courts, a swimming pool, walking trails or a playground, these must be maintained as well. Some of the fees will go toward water, cable services, insurance or security on the property—perhaps even a gate at the front of the property.
Often, these communities will hire a property management company or other third-party company to manage the details. Please note that failure to pay your HOA dues can result in a lien or foreclosure on your property—similar to missing your mortgage payments.
The yearly assessments also go up over time. Rate increases can create headaches for everyone. Before you decide whether to buy a home in an association community, it’s always a good idea to request financial reports for the last five years, if possible. This way you can see if there are enough funds in savings or reserves to cover any large improvements that will be needed in the future.
2. Pets Must Be Maintained
Homeowners with pets need to be extra cautious. Due to shared common space, fencing is often not available between each unit so your pet must be controlled at all times. Whether you walk your pet or have your pet outside, you need to clean up after your pet—every time. Cleaning up is a common courtesy, but it’s mandatory if it’s within your association. If you get caught not picking up after your pet, you will likely receive a violation notice and possibly owe a violation fee.
Loud noises like dogs barking or party music can also be a nuisance and could warrant another violation notice. Be sure to read the guidelines. When homeowners complain, it’s usually the responsibility of the management company to notify you in writing.
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3. Keep Up the Appearance of your Home
In a single-family association community, remember that one of the priorities of a homeowner association is to maintain property values. If you allow your grass to grow too high or don’t properly maintain your yard, you might be breaking the rules. Some HOAs will even require you to paint your home if it begins to fade beyond the acceptable condition.
In addition, there may be rules regarding the paint colors that are acceptable or the style and height of fencing. If an owner prefers to veer outside the guidelines, he/she will have to request approval by the board. These requests might be denied in order to preserve the uniform appearance of the community.
Parents might want to build a fort, playhouse or tree house for their children in their backyard. This might also be against the guidelines if you’re in a townhome community. Again, you will want to be familiar with all the rules.
Many associations will have instituted a parking policy since parked vehicles can be an eyesore or an obstruction for traffic. Many will have a rule against parking RVs, boats, large trucks or disabled vehicles. Guest parking should be clearly identified, and homeowners typically have a driveway or garage for their own use. It’s important to allow access for emergency vehicles at all times, and this is usually strictly enforced. Safety is an issue for everyone.
If you are potentially thinking about moving into a community with an HOA, ask about the parking issues and rules that would apply to you. Sometimes the parking is so inadequate, that vehicles will be parked up and down the street. Then, there are contractors who arrive to repair air conditioning units, or to work on the exterior or interior of the home. No doubt, the rules will apply to them as well, and it will be your responsibility to let them know where they can park. In fact, parking can be sacred when you’re dealing with a metropolitan community.
5. Clear Away Trash and Other Obstacles
Appearances mean everything inside a single-family subdivision. Tree branches lying in the yard for too long would likely be a violation. It would be the homeowner’s responsibility to clear away trash and other debris promptly and neatly. The same idea would apply to your patio or deck. It should always be in presentable order. On trash pickup day, the rules usually state that the bins must be put out of sight by evening.
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6. Renting the Home and Other Occupancy Rules
There also may be guidelines regarding renting the home, and there may be limits regarding the number of people who can occupy per unit. Many people who are homeowners are now using the services of Airbnb and other home sharing sites. Make sure to check with your HOA first to see if that’s something allowed. There are HOA that don’t accept long-term or short-term rentals, including Airbnb.
Many HOAs also have rules against selling to investors who plan to rent out the property. Those HOAs usually also deny renting your property even when you winter in another location. This is especially important for snowbirds. It’s critical that you understand what is allowed before buying the property.
7. Careless Driving
Vehicle owners and their guests will need to abide by the proper speed limits when accessing the community. Many subdivisions will have speed limits posted around the community. Take note—there are always other homeowners watching. They will record cars coming into the community, as well as their license plate numbers. And if kids are playing around the subdivision, this can be of real concern. Safety is a top concern for everyone living in the HOA.
As one can see, living in a homeowner association has more rules than one might have thought. It’s always recommended to read the Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, and Exterior Maintenance Guidelines before purchasing a home with HOA limitations. Failure to comply can result in steep fines and even foreclosure.
On a brighter note, rules are in place to protect the interests of everyone in the community. Property owners are responsible for living responsibly for their own sake as well as those around them. No doubt all residents will learn to live within the rules and maintain cordial relationships.
If you’ve enjoyed this article and learned something new about HOA rules or limitations, please share it with a friend who might also have interest. Thank you!
Again, according to Rentkidz failure to make payment on the HOA fee can result in a foreclosure.