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What Is a Homeowner Association?
A homeowner association (often abbreviated to HOA) is a community association that manages a specific neighborhood, helping to form local regulations and allocate funds to maintain shared spaces. In communities with HOAs, homeowners automatically become members of the association when buying local property and must pay monthly or yearly dues. The HOA’s elected board of directors uses these funds to make neighborhood improvements and maintain shared facilities.
Many types of residential communities can have HOAs, including single-family home developments, planned communities, townhouse subdivisions, and condominium complexes (though these are sometimes called condo associations).
Homeowners’ associations are different from property owners associations (POAs), which may include anyone with an interest in the community’s property and isn’t only limited to homeowners.
What Does a Homeowner Association Do?
A homeowner association is responsible for a few basic tasks:
- Listening to homeowners: Homeowners’ associations must listen to everyone in the community to serve the neighborhood’s common interests, often through letters, HOA meetings, or local polls.
- Forming rules: The main tools that HOAs have at their disposal are CC&Rs (short for covenants, conditions, and restrictions), which they can create and enforce to keep the community following particular standards of home design, curb upkeep, and conduct.
- Collecting and allocating funds: HOAs collect dues from community members, which they then use to fund community projects. HOAs can either source vendors or operate through an HOA property management company, which will offer HOA management services to help them coordinate vendors for construction or upkeep.
What Are the Advantages of a Homeowner Association?
A homeowners’ association can have many potential benefits:
- May increase the value of homes. The foremost advantage of homeowners’ association rules is that they can secure favorable property values of homes in the neighborhood in many ways, especially by specifying and enforcing home design and maintenance rules. In addition, HOA rules help maintain the curb appeal of all homes in the neighborhood.
- Can provide community amenities. HOA communities collect regular dues from all homeowners in the neighborhood, which they can use to improve the community in several ways. For example, these fees can help with building or maintaining common areas (such as clubhouses, swimming pools, or tennis courts), coordinating local cleanup or landscaping, or paying for snow removal.
- Can help resolve disputes. When disputes arise between neighbors—for instance, parking or cleanup disputes—the HOA management can step in to listen to the issue and design a new regulation to help resolve the conflict and prevent future incidents.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Homeowner Association?
A homeowners’ association can have a few potential disadvantages:
- Can create excess restrictions. Ideally, HOAs design their CC&Rs according to the common interests of the homeowners. However, every HOA is free to make rules according to their preference, meaning certain HOAs may develop rules that homeowners may find particularly restrictive—from limiting paint colors to requiring a particular lawn-mowing schedule. In areas with strict HOAs, homeowners can feel stifled by narrow design parameters or stringent upkeep policies.
- Monthly or annual fees. HOAs collect yearly or monthly HOA fees to fund their community projects and build up a reserve fund. These HOA fees usually range from $200 to $500 per month. In addition, HOAs are free to schedule what are called “special assessments,” or extra fees to pay for larger projects that the HOA’s reserve fund won’t cover. Depending on state laws, some HOAs have the power to foreclose and can place a lien on a homeowner’s property if they don’t pay their dues. (When buying a home, you can ask to see the HOA’s financial statements to see their history of fees, so you know what to expect.)
- Can have more power than homeowners. Homebuyers are automatically required to agree to the HOA’s governing documents and bylaws and abide by the HOA’s rules. Therefore, if homeowners disagree with certain rules, they have few avenues to dispute the HOA board members. However, in severe cases, they may run for a position on the board or pursue a legal route to make a change.
- Often ignores renters. While some HOAs may allow renters to participate in HOA meetings or use community amenities, others do not consider renters to be a part of the association because they are not homeowners. Thus, renters must appeal to property managers or owners to voice their opinions.