March 14, 2018
Home Owners Associations – here’s some “need to know” so you can decide about purchasing in a covenant controlled subdivision.
An HOA board is most often elected by residents and made up of residents in order to administer agreed upon restrictions that all within its purview must follow.
Unlike condominium HOA’s which are about maintaining specific common areas, a single family subdivision is more about maintaining property value through the enforcement of exterior upkeep concepts, like lawn requirements, pet restrictions and adherence to zoning.
Such formation of a Home Owners Association is usually created for very specific purposes:
- In order to advocate on behalf of a subdivision for things like speed limit signs
- Provide a unified voice for all owners within a subdivision
- Organize neighborhood activities such as block parties and yard sales
- Provide security or organize neighborhood watch groups
- To handle maintenance of common areas such as a park, community playground, pool or other private use area
Any and all covenants must always be legal in order to be enforceable. Typically, HOA guidelines do not restrict personal activities except possibly in these particular of areas:
- House colors, size or exterior decoration
- Landscaping guidelines
- Vehicle parking/storage
- Pets and livestock restrictions
- Playground equipment placement or security like basketball hoops, pools etc
- Operation of a home based business
While some are very PRO HOA, believing uniformity of exterior maintenance protects and even enhances home resale values, others have strong CON views, feeling HOA in single family circumstances unnecessarily restrict personal freedoms associated with home ownership.
PROS may include things like:
Uniformity of visual appeal
Sense of security
Place to bring grievances without going to law
Foster a sense of neighborhood pride and community
Pet and other animal control issues are clearly outlined
CONS may be viewed of things like:
Restrictive of certain activities such as home based businesses
Payment of monthly fee’s in addition to mortgage and upkeep
Limits in personal expression concerning house colors, lawn maintenance, renovations to home
Restrictions on land use such as addition of swimming pools, fences, or parking concerns
May not be viewed favorably during a sale, limiting a sellers buyer pool
Consider all the pros and cons to decide if a HOA controlled neighborhood is right for you. You’ll want to read the CC&R’s (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) before closing any sale. You should also ask questions to be certain you understand what is required of home owners in the neighborhood.
Some of these questions may be things like:
Are fee’s mandatory or voluntary? What are the fees and what exactly do they cover? How often are the fees collected? What kind of things are fees used to pay for?
In addition to existing restrictions, are there more under consideration that might be added later? Do the individual home owners get a say or vote about restrictions?
What are the penalties for infractions? What is the process of being informed of infractions?
Are there any rental restrictions? How is the increase of any fees determined? How often are fees increased? How does the voting work? How are votes counted? Who verifies the counts?
One positive aspect of a homeowners association is that it provides a way for homeowners to actively participate in what’s going on in their community. Your local marketing specialist will inform you of any HOA in areas you are considering purchasing in, and will provide you with a copy of existing bylaws. They will also be able to secure answers to any further questions you have to help you determine whether an HOA covenanted neighborhood is right for you and your family.