Associations often have a bad rep. You know, the reputation that they have so many rules, or how they, “tell you what you can do with your own property!” While this is the case, sometimes rules, boundaries and standards are a good thing! So, let’s chat.
First, let’s start by answering the question, “What is a Homeowners Association (HOA) /Property Owners Association (POA)?”
An HOA or POA is an organization composed of residents who are owners of a specific subdivision or housing community. They manage aspects of those properties by creating, enforcing and overseeing rules and regulations for the properties and the residents who live there to follow. Let me rephrase that: the association is the owners and the owners are the association!
There are often rulebooks that dictate how the HOA operates and what it controls. Typically, every month members of the association (owners) will meet to discuss aspects of the neighborhood, such as housing maintenance, budget handling, community maintenance, resident concerns, new residents, amenities as well as rules and guidelines for members to follow. The purpose of an HOA/POA is to help maintain the structure and visual standards, along with increasing the value of homes in a specific neighborhood or community.
By paying a monthly association fee, you are essentially giving back to your community by allowing the association to contribute those funds toward upkeeping and upgrading aspects of the neighborhood. This benefits homeowners in the association by keeping the associated neighborhood current, desirable and ultimately increase property values and ownership rates high. Associations can create a sense of community that drives in buyers and families into the neighborhood.
There are times where association guidelines can be very confining and restrictive when wanting to make cosmetic changes to your property, even if they seem minor (i.e., changing front door color, new fence structure and material, house color, etc.). Some associations can even impose a fine for not adhering to their regulations (i.e., not cutting lawn or leaving garbage cans out too long, etc.). It is important that you check the covenants in the association documents and/or seek approval from your association before making any changes to your property.
When purchasing a property located within a HOA/POA, the seller is responsible for providing you with a packet of rules and regulations for the association. This packet explains the guidelines and restrictions that residents of the association are set to follow as well as the amount it costs to be a homeowner in that association (association fee). It also provides a look into the association’s budget, the repair reserves and any ongoing issues that have been discussed in association meetings. Some associations will also conduct an inspection of the property and any current violations will be noted in the packet as well!
It is strongly advised that you read the entire rules and regulations packet in the allotted time when purchasing a home before signing off on it. In Virginia, you only have three days from receipt of the packet to get out of your contract if there is something that isn’t satisfactory to you in it! So, don’t hesitate to dive right in once you receive it!
It is also important to understand what amenities and accommodations the association provides to you as part of your monthly/annual association fees. These dues (based on the size of the association or the association fee amount) can cover various amenities, such as:
- Upkeep and access to association amenities ( i.e., pools, playgrounds, tennis courts, gyms, etc.)
- Maintenance of exterior structures (roofs, siding, painting, landscape, parking lots, etc.)
- Quality of life features (trash/ recycling dumping, pest control services, community groups, clubhouses, etc.)
Tips for living in a HOA
- Know the rules and regulations and adhere to them.
- Upkeep and maintain property condition.
- Be a good neighbor.
- Take advantage of amenities that are provided.
- Actively volunteer in your community and with your HOA/POA. Remember you are the association, and the association is you! So, if you don’t like something, there’s only one way to change it!
Associations aren’t all bad, and they serve a purpose if you are concerned about property values and neighbor’s upkeep! But they aren’t for everyone. Do your due diligence and be sure buying into an association is the right choice for you!