How to tell if a home is part of an HOA

newsQ:I owned a condominium and then a house that both had homeowners’ associations. Rules were not enforced, many owners were delinquent with their payments, and it was unpleasant – especially with the section where my house was. I sold both of them and am looking to buy a house that is not part of an HOA. At what point is a real estate agent, or the owner if the house is for sale by owner, required to tell me if the community has a mandatory HOA? When I am told there is none, can I ask for it in writing? Is there some way I can check on my own to verify there is no HOA before I go look at a house?

A: N.C. law (N.C.G.S. Chapter 47E) has long required sellers to disclose certain information to prospective buyers. The seller must inform the purchaser of items such as water and sewer service, the structural condition of the property, mechanical and plumbing issues, termite damage, zoning, and the presence of lead-based paint, radon, and other toxic materials. The written disclosures are required whether the buyer or seller have a real estate agent.

Last year the N.C. General Assembly passed House Bill 165, which placed additional disclosure requirements on sellers of real estate. Beginning this year, the law requires sellers to provide buyers with an “owners’ association and mandatory covenants disclosures statement.” This new disclosure statement must include information regarding:

• Any restrictive covenants that apply to the home.

• Contact information for any homeowners’ association that governs the property.

• The amount of any HOA assessments or dues.

• A description of any services paid for by the assessments or dues.

• Whether there are any regular or special assessments or dues that have been approved and are currently payable to the HOA.

• Whether there are any judgments against the HOA, or lawsuits pending that involve the HOA, the community or the property being sold.

• Any fees charged by the HOA or its management company when a home is sold.

If a seller fails to provide the disclosures to the purchaser on or before the date a purchase contract is signed, the purchaser has the right to cancel the contract.

If you want to independently verify whether the property is subject to an HOA, the only option is to search the real estate title yourself. If you do not know how to perform a title search, or have other questions about the property you are considering purchasing, I suggest that you consult with an experienced real estate attorney.

Charlotte attorney Michael Hunter represents community and condominium associations for the firm of Horack Talley.

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“Ask The Experts” Articles have been Reprinted with permission from the Charlotte Observer

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