What homeowners need to know about having an HOA
Perhaps because ours is a young state with lots of new planned developments and condominium projects, Arizona has 8,800 homeowners associations.
It’s possible you already live in an HOA or maybe you’re thinking about moving to a home with an that has one — gated neighborhoods nearly always have one.
Developers establish HOAs and set conditions, covenants and restrictions for the buyers of the housing units they build. But once the development is up and running, new homeowners elect a board and enforce the rules and set new ones, said Linda Lang, president and CEO of the Arizona Association of Community Managers.
Some associations hire property managers to help run the development.
HOAs can be infamous for setting many new rules and regulations. Restrictions can include what shade of beige you can paint your house, how high fences and walls can be, where your garbage can should be stored and when and where you can park on streets.
We have seen HOAs clash with residents about solar panels on roofs or whether RVs can sit in driveways for more than a day. They may stop you from raising chickens in the backyard or planting non-native plants.
Meanwhile, many homeowners contend that HOAs benefit property values because they improve cleanliness and safety and make regular improvements in the development. And they don’t really want a chicken living next door anyway.
Here are the questions you need to ask about your association:
What facilities does the HOA maintain?
In many communities, gates, fitness centers, golf courses and swimming pools are cared for by the HOA. Some HOAs maintain landscaping of common properties and painting and repairing things, such as common walls.
If the development is gated, then the HOA — not the city or county — will maintain and pay for the roads.
What are the fees and how often do you pay?
Are they quarterly or monthly? Have the homeowners had special assessments for road and sewer repairs or similar projects or for things, such as a bocce ball court or a fitness center?
Remember, liens can be filed for homeowners who fail to pay fees. Did the management have trouble collecting fees during the recession and what is their current financial situation?
What are the rules and who enforces them?
Read the conditions, covenants and restrictions, the basic rules set by the developer.
But also read rules that the homeowners association set later. They may include things such as keeping your garage door closed and not riding around on roller blades or skateboards.
Are fines assessed for rule breakers? If you don’t like taking orders, an HOA might not suit you.
Who manages the development?
Although a small development doesn’t necessarily need a full-time, on-site manager, bigger developments do. What’s the experience and certification of the managers?
Remember, these people will be handling your fees each month. One advantage of having a full-time manager means there is someone to call if there’s a problem when the HOA president is out of town.
Even if you’ve decided to move to an HOA and the situation turns into a problem, you can always decide to move away.
However, many homeowners decide to fix things instead. They run for the HOA board of directors and make the changes that they want after they’re elected.
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