If you have never lived in a complex or neighborhood with a home owners association (HOA), it can be difficult to understand exactly what your responsibilities are and what rules HOA’s typically enforce.

condo residentsIn general, HOAs exist to help maintain quality of life in communities and protect property values for all homeowners. Part of the HOA’s responsibility is to uphold a set of rules or standards for its properties and residents. People are looking more and more to HOAs to oversee these tasks.

There are over 73 million people in the U.S. in a community association. The number of HOAs on record growing by nearly 60 percent over the last 30 years. Associations typically charge homeowners a fee or regular dues to help maintain things like common areas, landscaping or other amenities.

What kind of rules does an HOA enforce?

condo bbqHOAs help all homeowners remain equally responsible for shared common spaces such as landscaping, elevators, swimming pools, clubhouses, parking garages, fitness centers, sidewalks, security gates, etc.

In addition, HOAs define a set of rules known as covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that all residents must follow. CC&Rs vary from association to association, but guidelines generally deal with architectural features like fences, pools, porches or other exterior home features.

Many people buy a house of condominium because they like the location, amenities and surroundings. HOAs hold all homeowners within their community to a standard so that all neighbors can be proud of the appearance of the area they reside.

This may entail the HOA placing restrictions on things such as drying beach towels over the side of a lanai railing, satellite dishes and pets. Documents may also restrict certain activities that can occur at your home or neighborhood.

Who sets the HOA rules and regulations?

HOA meetingAn HOA is typically made up of elected community residents who sit on a board of directors or governors. When you purchase a home in a community that’s governed by an HOA, you automatically become a member of the home owners association. Residents elect other members to make up the Board of Directors. The board members have regular meetings open to homeowners to discuss major issues and concerns facing the community.

HOAs are governed by bylaws that dictate how the HOA will be run and spells out the process for voting, meetings, board member roles and other operating guidelines.

While each HOA is different and subject to local property laws, they’ll likely create the following governing documents: rules and regulations, bylaws and CC&Rs.

How are HOA rules enforced?

HOA rules are generally legally enforceable and penalties are appointed when violations occur. Consequences can be severe depending on the nature and length of a violation, and can include fines, legal action, or—in the worst cases—eviction. If you openly commit a crime or break a law, the HOA can report it directly to authorities.

If you’re unable to or refuse to pay your HOA fees, there can be penalties similar to missing mortgage payments. If you run into tough times and are unable to pay your HOA fees, try proactively communicating with your Board of Directors before you miss even one payment.

What are the pros and cons of living in an HOA community?

Here are some things homeowners usually consider to be the pros of working with an HOA:

  • Communities with required HOAs typically provide shared spaces and common areas like pools, clubhouses, sport courts and other amenities homeowners may not be able to afford on their own.
  • HOAs are generally responsible for maintaining and repairing any shared or common spaces.
  • The end goal of an HOA is to help homes in the community retain their value.
  • HOAs can mediate conflicts and issues between community members as they arise.

Here are some of the downsides to working with an HOA:

  • HOA fees are an additional expense.
  • There are procedures to go through if you’re interested in modifying, renovating or remodeling certain aspects of your home.
  • Depending on your lifestyle, you may desire a sense of autonomy that HOAs can lack.

As evidenced by the rise in HOA participation, many find advantages in this type of community living. Those that want a more carefree lifestyle, or are on Maui just part of the year, will likely appreciate an HOA. Those that want to regularly entertain large crowds or want to personalize outdoor spaces may find some challenges. If you have not yet made the decision to live in an HOA community, we suggest reviewing the governing documents provided by an HOA before committing to a purchase.