New to Association Living
If you are a first-time homeowners association home buyer, you might not be prepared for the rules and regulations that you will be responsible to uphold.
A few of the rules you may encounter are:
- A dress code for proper attire when using common property (such as a pool, clubhouse or fitness center)
- A limit on the number or weight of pets
- A prohibition against RVs on the property
- Rules against free-standing greenhouses and storage sheds in back yards
- Only “approved” colors of paint on the exterior of your house
- A regulation against overnight street parking on the street
- Only operable cars with current tags and inspection stickers allowed in driveways
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Homeowner associations can make living conditions in a community a very pleasant experience. When you spend time and money on your landscaping, you do not necessarily want to live next door to someone who has a lawn full of 12” weeds or is using their driveway as a place to dismantle and restore their cars – and the cars of their friends and relatives. You will probably enjoy quiet mornings when you neighbor is prohibited from mowing his lawn or removing trees on his property with a chainsaw at 6:00 A.M.! These activities are just some of the issues governed by the association’s rules and regulations.
Your association is also instrumental in the effective operation of the community. The board of directors creates rules, enforces compliance, manages the assets, and looks out for the financial and legal well being of their community. The people who volunteer to serve on the board work hard and spend a lot of time looking into each individual situation in an attempt to find answers to all questions. Their time and efforts usually go unrecognized and unappreciated by their neighbors.
There are some people who just cannot or will not obey rules. Those people should definitely think twice, maybe three or four times, before moving into a community with an HOA. The association, by way of their rules & regulations, is going to have a lot to say about what is allowed and not allowed in the community and in and around each home.
Before you purchase your new home, here are a few things to consider:
- Find out as much as you can about the community association. Read the rules and regulations, read the architectural policies and guidelines, request copies of the board meeting minutes, review the financials and, if possible, attend an open board meeting.
- Several states have extensive laws regulating community associations, while other states have almost no laws governing the subject. You should be certain that your association is complying with any state statutes. As an example, are board meetings held on a regular basis? Were you provided with the minutes and financial statements in a timely manner after your request?
- Some issues to be concerned about in the community are the number of foreclosures, delinquent assessments, excessive litigation; overdue major maintenance repairs, special assessments and adequate reserve funds.
- If you are unable to attend an open board meeting prior to making your purchase, it would be advisable to meet with at least some of the current board members. Ask them about issues they are dealing with in the community and assess their qualifications and ability to handle the association business. The quality and expertise of the board is extremely important.
- Find out what the history of increases in assessments has been over the years. Increases should be minimal and steady throughout the term of existence of the community.
- Does the association have the proper and required insurance coverage?
- If you have pets, do they comply with the requirements in the rules and regulations?
- If you are planning to rent out your house, make sure you review the association’s policy regarding rentals.
- Review the rules and regulations pertaining to use of common property such as pools, tennis courts, parks, etc
- If you are willing to consider serving on the board or a committee, you would be able to assist in furthering the success of the community. If you have management, legal, business-, financial- or building-related skills, volunteer to take your turn on the board or one of the committees formed by the board to assist in the management of the community. You will be welcomed with open arms and much appreciation.
- One of the most important things to do before purchasing a home in a community association is to determine association and owners responsibilities. Who takes care of the lawns, the common areas, pools, etc? What does the association’s insurance cover and what insurance do you need to cover your home and property. In a planned community, the association’s insurance usually does not take care of your home or structure itself. Condominium associations may insure everything except the contents of your unit. This is why it’s so important to read and understand the governing documents, the “CC&R’s” (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions)/Declaration/Master Deed, Bylaws, Rules & Regulations and Architectural Policies & Guidelines.
Membership in the community association is mandatory and once you purchase a home in a deed-restricted community, you will be held responsible for complying with all of its governing documents. Make sure you are ready and willing to make that commitment and then enjoy the community you have elected to join.
* These articles and related content on this website are provided without warranty of any kind and in no way consitute or provide legal advice. You are advised to contact an attorney specializing in Association Management for legal advice related to your specific issue and community. Some articles are provided by thrid parties and online services. Display of these articles does in no way endorse the products or services of Community Association Management by the author(s).