Believe it or not, 55 million Americans — one out of five home owners — have willingly turned over a portion of their privacy and freedom of expression.
How have they done so? Buying their homes inside of a community regulated by a homeowner association is how.
Home owner associations, or “HOAs,” are known for containing a number of terms and conditions that each home owner in the community must abide by. These rules, sometimes called CC&R’s (covenants, conditions and restrictions), constitute a type of government for the community that is enjoyed by some and considered a hindrance by others.
In some cases, failure to follow the rules set forth by the HOA could result in having their homes confiscated from them, and police, local governments and even Congress can do nothing about it. Some people love the structure that the HOA provides; others detest them, while others merely tolerate them.
However, a great many homeowners don’t fully realize what they’ve gotten themselves into until they’ve already signed on the dotted line. It’s been estimated that four out of five of HOAs are doing well, but 20% of them have issues, sometimes major ones.
The main reason for this seems to be that the rules governing private home developments are set up by developers who don’t live on the site and all but disappear. The existing rules are then difficult to change and home owners are stuck dealing with the consequences.
Here is an overview of the pros and cons of HOAs:
• Regulates things like pool usage and reasonable upkeep of homes and yards in the neighborhood
• Offers protections for home owners against their neighbors setting up unsightly campers on their property, using the front yard for storage, nuisance noise, etc.
• Generally wants to maintain or improve the environment of the neighborhood for all.
• In communities that have them, HOA membership is not optional.
• There can be restrictions on personal preferences such as what color your house can be, what type of mailbox you can have, whether or not you can have a flag pole, wind chimes, a clothesline, etc.
• Some rules are nearly impossible to change, like deed restrictions.
• Fines can be assessed by the HOA for non-compliance. Failure to pay could cause you to lose your home.
Love them or hate them, homeowner associations seem here to stay. With 55 million Americans agreeing to abide by them, they must be doing more good than harm.
When considering buying a home in an HOA community, make sure you read over the rules and regulations before making the final decision to buy the home.