Reading time: 4 minutes
You found your dream home, and you’re all but ready to sign on the dotted line. Then your real estate agent informs you that the community has an homeowners association or an HOA. But what does living with an HOA mean, and how do homeowners associations work? And are you really not allowed to paint your home’s trim that beautiful Mediterranean Blue?
We’re answering your HOA FAQ and more below!
What is an HOA?
A homeowners association (HOA) is a managing entity, usually for a condominium or community, that has a set of rules that must be followed by the homeowner. The HOA is run by a member-elected board of directors that oversees the rules and regulations, which are usually regulated by local and county ordinances, as well as state law.
Essentially – you own your property, but you’re moving into a community that offers certain amenities, services, and standards in exchange for agreement and adherence to the community rules.
What are typical HOA rules?
“Rules” is such a harsh word. Homeowners Association rules are actually called Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), and they usually encompass these areas:
- Lawncare requirements – Homeowners may be required to maintain curb appeal, e.g. mowing and watering the lawn, to uphold the community’s aesthetics.
- Traffic and parking requirements – HOAs may regulate speed and parking regulations, as well as which vehicles are permitted in the community.
- Pet guidelines – Most HOAs have a list of approved dog breeds – usually chosen for size and weight – and offer guidance on where to walk them, which community events they can attend, etc.
- Occupancy requirements – Most HOAs regulate how many people can live in the dwelling, usually dependent upon the square footage of the home.
- Rental agreements – Homeowners may need to inform the HOA if they are renting their home, and tenants will need to follow the CC&Rs. Failure to comply can lead to penalties for the property owner.
- Noise avoidance – Some HOAs have “quiet hours” that will need to be respected.
- Insurance requirements – Check with your HOA regarding insurance. Some offer insurance through the HOA and may even cover a portion of the insurance costs.
Looking for a place to upload your HOA regulations, so you have them at your fingertips? Download the vipHomeLink home management app from Google Play and the Apple Store! Our app gives your house a home with all your home documents in place. Plus, we also have tips for lawncare, so your curb appeal will remain manicured and pristine!
What benefits do you receive from an HOA?
Most communities offer playgrounds, pools, gyms, and the following amenities:
- Maintenance of parking lots, common areas, and exterior structures.
- Trash and recycling.
- And cable.
You’ll also enjoy a well-maintained neighborhood (or building, if you’re in a condo), and if you adhere to the CC&Rs, you shouldn’t see your property values fall. You might also never have to lift a shovel during the snow or enjoy other perks.
What disadvantages does an HOA present?
HOA painting guidelines means you will have a limited number of paint colors to choose for your home exterior colors. (That might mean no Mediterranean Blue for your trim!) Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin Moore, and home improvement stores have color databases which may have the colors of your HOA available.
A Mount Pleasant HOA in South Carolina allows their homeowners to paint the exterior of their homes Whirlpool, Web Gray, Lei Flower, Smoky Blue, and Quite Coral. In Princeton, New Jersey, an HOA allows their homeowners only three exterior painting colors, two garage door colors, one deck railing color, one shutter color, and one door color.
Other disadvantages include fees, which can be expensive, and a swath of rules to follow. (See the rules above.)
Some HOAs also have added fees for emergency repairs, so if this is not in your contract, you may want to ask before an emergency happens.
Are the HOA fees worth it?
That’s for you to decide, but you should always read your contract as different HOAs offer different services and amenities.
What happens if you forfeit your fees?
Consequences vary from community to community and state to state, though board members usually work with homeowners to resolve a situation. Some actions may include:
- A reminder letter and late fees.
- Rights suspended.
- Put into collection.
- Lien on the property.
- Possible foreclosure.
There are also fines for non-compliance, which can vary from $25 to more than $100 for breaking the rules on fencing and dog breeds. (If you’re like one of our team members – make sure that your trash cans cannot be seen from the street on non-collection days.)
Can you opt out of an HOA?
If you buy a house in a development with a mandatory HOA, you unfortunately cannot opt out; however, there are non-mandatory HOAs. So make sure to check before you opt in.
Can HOAs govern the work being done inside your home?
Again, the answer hinges on your CC&Rs. Some HOAs required a licensed professional to do renovations within the property and even have a list of approved professionals for you to use.
Do homeowners have any rights in an HOA?
Absolutely, but we recommend you become educated about the rules of your community and the process of changing those rules if they are you disagree with them.
If you have a dispute with your HOA, always check your contract to make sure the basis of the dispute is included under the CC&Rs. Boards can overextend their jurisdiction.
Interested in buying a home in an HOA community?
Consider contacting the HOA board if you have any questions about the rules. Once involved, you will become familiar with and involved in the workings of the community.
Happy New Home-ing!
Know what to do and when to do it!
vipHomeLink can help you avoid HOA penalties. Our home management app sends you personalized reminders for home maintenance and tailored recommendations for home improvement. The app’s vipTIPs give you expert advice at your fingertips and help you know what to do and when to do around the home. Plus, our new weather alerts help ready your home for whatever Mother Nature can throw at it!
Stay on top of home maintenance with vipHomeLink. Start your free trial with a monthly or annual membership.