What the Heck is an HOA?
What the heck is an HOA??? Have you ever been driving through a neighborhood that has beautifully maintained homes and lovely yards, all the mailboxes are the same and no one has unsightly cars on blocks in the driveway? That, my friends, is the result of an HOA or Home Owners association.
According to Investopia, a homeowners association (HOA) is an organization in a subdivision, planned community or condominium that makes and enforces rules for the properties and their residents. Those who purchase property within an HOA's jurisdiction automatically become members and are required to pay dues, known as HOA fees. Some associations can be very restrictive about what members can do with their properties.
Home owners Associations are run by a group of elected board members from the community. These board members, along the members of the HOA, are in charge of enforcing the rules set by the community. These rules are called covenants. Covenants address all sorts of things in the community including structural restrictions such as the type of fences, selections of paint color on a house, parking, use of amenities such as a shared pool, and even the length of the grass in lawns. This document usually also outlines the penalties for violating the CC&Rs, which may include fees, forced compliance or in some cases, litigation.
Home owners associations can be a really good thing for home owners. The goal of an HOA is to preserve the plan of the community and maintain and increase property values. With a good HOA, managing the aesthetic of the neighborhood, you are much less likely to deal with a scary looking haunted house overrun with trash ruining your chances of selling your home. Besides protecting values the HOA also maintains amenities in the neighborhood and sets aside money to deal with any emergency or costly repair that the community incurs.
A community with an HOA is not for everyone. Sometimes the restrictions set by the community will be too strict. Other times, as a home owner, the way the HOA mandates that you cannot use your property in the way that you would like. For example, in the area I live- close to Lake Lanier, I hear complaints from home owners that their HOA won't let them park their boat at their house- not even for a short time. Another potential downside is the HOA board members, who are normally volunteers, may not be up to the job of managing real estate, dealing with complex financial issues, or working to unite disperse groups of people into a common cause.
While most HOA related disputes get settled amicably, that is not always the case. HOA disputes can get heated! Screaming neighbors in meetings, neighbors tattling to the HOA for every little thing their neighbor does, and even lawsuits. If you want to go down an ugly rabbit hole you can look at this lawsuit over solar panels, or this case over a backyard play-set, or even this case where a man had a heart attack trying to lay sod to be in compliance with the HOA rules.
Bottom line, many of the places people want to live have a Home Owners Association to preserve the community, maintain property values and keep up the amenities. Living with an HOA is just not for everyone. If you have an RV and a boat you want to park at home or a huge collection of yard art, living in an HOA is not for you. However, if you love the look of maintained homes, don't want to maintain your own pool, and want a protected investment- an HOA community is the ticket. And for all of us who live in a community with and HOA, volunteer and BE NICE!