What is a Homeowners Association
It is estimated that nearly a quarter of Americans live in the 315,000 HOAs across the country, but many have little understanding of what an HOA actually is and does.
‘HOA’ is an acronym for homeowners association, a legal entity comprised of the property owners in a planned development. The purpose of an HOA is to oversee any shared property such as common areas and amenities, and to maintain the value of the homes in the community by enforcing a variety of guidelines. HOAs are usually incorporated by the developer before any of the lots are sold, and then turned over to the homeowners when most or all of the lots have been sold. From that point, a volunteer board of directors is responsible for the management of the community.
The board of directors of a homeowners association are volunteer homeowners from within the community, elected by their neighbors to oversee the management of the community. They are ultimately responsible for abiding by and enforcing the community’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) and by-laws. The CC&Rs establish guidelines for most aspects of the neighborhood and also gives the board of directors the power to issue violations to homeowners who are not in compliance. Guidelines may include standards for storm doors and exterior paint colors, leasing properties, and parking, but no matter how restrictive they may seem to be, they were written with the interests of the neighborhood in mind. By keeping the community well kept, homes retain their value and people will want to live there.
HOA membership is a requirement of purchasing a home within its boundaries. By buying into the neighborhood the new owner agrees to abide by the requirements of the CC&Rs and pay dues to the association.
These dues go to the coverage of many different things, including maintenance of the common elements of the association. Common elements can include entrance signs, recreational facilities, playgrounds, and simple open space. Dues also pay the association’s insurance, legal, and often accounting and management fees. In condominium and townhome associations dues will also go towards the maintenance of the residential buildings. The amount of maintenance to be performed by the HOA varies from association to association, but is always defined in the community CC&Rs.
Because managing an HOA can be a time consuming and difficult task, many boards of directors hire a professional management company to assist. Property managers work together with the board, handling the day to day responsibilities of the community, though the board retains the power to make all of the decisions. This partnership, along with the partnership of the board and the homeowners, creates a harmonious association.