When buying a home or apartment in a planned community, condominium, or neighborhood subdivision, the property is likely governed by an HOA or Community Association.
What is an HOA?
The HOA is a private organization that protects property values and those living within the community. They maintain the district’s peace and order through the implementation of rules while at the same time collecting fees for overall maintenance and upkeep of shared areas.
Apart from the main governing body, which is the board of directors, the HOA is made up of volunteers or members who are residents of the community. However, not everyone is open to living under an association’s restrictions. If you’re considering buying a home in an HOA neighborhood, can you refuse to join a homeowners association? The answer is: it depends.
Do I need to be part of an HOA?
There are two types of HOA communities: mandatory and voluntary. Some communities require compulsory HOA membership upon purchase of the property, and those are called mandatory HOA. If you purchase property within a compulsory existing HOA neighborhood, you are expected to sign a membership contract, abide by the rules, and pay monthly or annual fees.
Meanwhile, voluntary HOAs allow residents to opt out of being an HOA member. As a non-member, the association cannot enforce community regulations on your property apart from those mandated by the law.
Since not everyone is expected to follow the rules, voluntary HOAs rely on the willingness and compliance of the residents as they work together to protect and improve their community. As a non-member of the association, you have control over your home appearance and are free to do what you want to your property without consulting any boards. However, shared amenities like pools, gyms, and courts may become pay-to-use for non-members as they are maintained through HOA fees.
Joining an HOA: What to expect
The HOA enforces rules covering many homeownership rights for the betterment of the community and its residents. HOA members are legally bound to follow these rules and are subject to penalties or consequences if violated.
While each association has its own set of regulations according to community preferences, usual HOA restrictions cover landscape choices and exterior home decor. Often you can expect limitations on types of plants or trees in your yard, fencing type, height limits, outdoor structures, and the color of your house and roofing.
Depending on your area, the HOA may also have regulations on the following:
- Smoking areas
- Recreational vehicles
- Occupancy limits
- Renting or subletting
- Lawn equipment
- And more
The HOA’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) is a document outlining the community rules and is something potential homeowners should review before purchasing property in the community. This document also discloses their system of fines for violations and the HOA fees for maintaining shared amenities.
Despite the limitations and fees, HOA members enjoy a safe and supervised neighborhood with well-kept facilities while being able to preserve or increase their property’s value. It’s a small price to pay for many benefits that can result in an improved lifestyle and less trouble for the residents in the community.
Is HOA right for you?
Living in an area with a homeowners association is a huge commitment, so you should thoroughly consider it if it fits your lifestyle. While HOA has its advantages, its rules can impact your way of living or hobbies such as gardening, outdoor activities, and owning pets.
Additionally, most changes on your property, like home alterations and yard renovations, may require consulting the board first, which can sometimes feel limiting. On top of that, HOA fees are an additional cost to your monthly dues, which can strain your expenses.
Taking everything into consideration, if you feel that living under HOA rules goes against your lifestyle or that paying membership fees are expensive and over your budget, it’s better to find a home in another area without mandatory HOA or isn’t governed by one.
However, if you are comfortable following HOA guidelines and have the extra cash to cover the fees, the advantages of having a homeowners association can be well worth your money.