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Many modern housing developments share areas such as parks, pools and playgrounds. When this is the case, they need a homeowner’s association to tend to the needs of the common areas. The same is true for condominium complexes and townhome communities. Since hallways, elevators and the outsides of buildings require shared maintenance, the HOA’s purpose is clear, and membership means protection for home values.
But some neighborhoods have associations that do not maintain jointly-owned areas. Instead, they exist purportedly to keep the neighborhood’s appeal. Often, these groups set strict rules on paint colors, the length grass can grow, whether you can have lawn ornaments and various other personal taste decisions that might make your life there more complicated. They police the number of vehicles in your driveway and how quickly you put away your trash containers after pickup.
These rules can benefit owners by making certain one property’s neglect doesn’t reflect poorly on the other properties nearby.
Know before You Go
When you purchase a home in a community with a homeowner’s association, request a copy of the CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) before you make an offer or with a contingency that you can back out if the rules are too onerous.
If you decide to purchase in an HOA neighborhood, realize that you’re giving up some of your freedoms in exchange for rules meant to enhance the quality of life in your community.
The best way to coexist with community life is to get involved. Attend the meetings, offer to be on a committee or run for office. Sometimes, due to lack of a quorum, the leadership rules by fiat, so try to get other neighbors involved too. Offer to host a social event so that neighbors can meet and get to know one another. It’s harder to impose harsh rules on people you know and see frequently.
If you don’t understand a rule, open a dialog. Perhaps you’ll discover there is a history behind the rule that gives it more validity.
Always make your requests in writing too, so that you can back up claims for a quick response to HOA action against you.
When the home you want is in an HOA-controlled community, do your best to become part of the influencers rather than a detractor. That way, if someone proposes a petty rule that you believe isn’t helpful, you’ll be able to have your say.
Let your real estate agent know how you feel about living in an HOA neighborhood. If you’re unsure, ask your agent to find out how the HOA functions and what the other members think about it.