Homeowners associations can make life in a community easier. They enforce regulations, keep the property looking its best and organize community get-togethers. But with those benefits come a price: Homeowners who belong to an HOA — some 62 million Americans, according to the Community Associations Institute — pay annual, quarterly or monthly fees for upkeep and maintenance. They also must abide by the HOA’s covenants, conditions and restrictions or risked getting fined. Read this helpful information from American Home Shield to find out the best way to interact with and get the most out of your HOA.
Know who they are. HOA rules are enforced by a board of directors. This homeowner-elected or developer-elected group is composed of homeowners who live in the neighborhood. Introduce yourself to these people, know where they live, and make sure you have their contact information. If you have a complaint or concern about your neighborhood, you should address it with them first.
Also, keep in mind that board is usually made up of volunteers from the community. Managing an HOA can be a time-consuming job, and its members do it for free. A property management company is sometimes hired to handle the finances, maintenance and due collection, but the board members still play in active role in the management of the neighborhood.
Do your homework. Ideally, you’d do this before you buy. A quick look around the property can reveal the effectiveness of the HOA. Is the pool dirty? Is the lawn overdue for a mowing?
Take the time to meet the board members and even sit in on a meeting to see how things work. Look over the covenant, deeds, and rules, and ask to see a copy of the budget. This will minimize surprises later. It’s also a good idea to find out how much dues are increased each year, so you can factor this into your own personal budget.
Make your payments. Maybe you’re having a disagreement with the board over policy. Maybe you’re unhappy with the dismal state of landscaping. Even so, you should keep paying your dues. HOAs have broad legal powers, which means that they can take you to small claims court or file a lien against your property if you ignore letters from the board, property manager or a collection agency.
The best way to resolve a problem is to communicate with the board members, which may lead to a compromise. If you want to do something that is against the rules, start by making a written request for variance. Doing things the right way can save you a lot of hassle down the line.
Get involved. The very best way to influence HOA policy is to volunteer. When a position on the board becomes open, put your name forward. It doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment—most terms are one to two years. If you don’t have the time or desire to become a board member, volunteer for a committee or task. Use your talents to assist the board on a project basis; you might create a website or help with accounting. Go to AhsNewsletters.com for more information.