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Homeowners associations are common features of new residential subdivisions, condominiums and townhouse developments, planned communities, and vacation resorts throughout the United States and abroad. Typically established by the builder or developer, such associations are most often responsible for maintenance of common facilities. They also frequently oversee the operation of community centers, pools, golf courses and sports courts, and can assume responsibility for routine repair of streets and/or sidewalks, building exteriors and roofs, and even front yard landscaping and upkeep.
Residents pay a monthly fee to the association, in addition to mortgage, taxes, insurance and utilities on their individual properties. Most commonly, the day-to-day operation of a homeowners association will be managed by an independent firm, with oversight from a governing board of homeowners elected to serve, unpaid, for specific terms.
Pay Attention to the CC&Rs
Buying a home in a community with an HOA requires that residents agree to the covenants, conditions and restrictions, known as the CC&Rs. Rules can be relatively simple, outlining the types of fencing allowed or specifying allowable trim colors and landscaping plants. Some HOAs, however, have stringent restrictions, governing varied aspects of community living. Some actively promote community programming while others simply act as a review board to handle disputes or non-compliance with stipulated regulations.
Withholding payment of association dues can lead to legal action, sometimes even foreclosure.
HOAs Uphold Community Standards
Prior to buying property in a subdivision with an HOA, a buyer should be completely familiar with the CC&Rs and understand the financial commitment entailed. All HOAs are committed to uphold community standards and protect property values. That is perhaps the best reason for buying property in an area that has a well-managed, effective and highly-functioning HOA. But it is always up to the buyer to determine the effectiveness of any HOA. The best way is to ask to view previous years' financial statements, and to talk to current owners.
The best homeowners associations foster a heightened sense of community, encouraging social events and offering services to promote safety and security for residents. Neighborhood watch programs, community patrols and emergency response, rideshare programs, and youth-oriented activities are common. In addition, well-run associations have financial reserves to handles unexpected maintenance or repair needs and have a "comfortable" relationship with homeowners.
HOAs were first established to govern the operation of condominium associations, and have sometimes received a bad rap from owners who found them restrictive and expensive. The role of the HOA has changed over the decades, and most are professional and dedicated to the welfare of current and future homeowners. They actively promote and encourage neighborliness, cohesive community spirit and property values.
Belonging to a homeowners association fosters a valuable common bond with other owners, and offers homeowners a real voice in the community.