Here are some HOA tips to help you navigate your Homeowner Association and understand, what power does a HOA have over you and your home?
When you purchase a home, one of the first things you need to do is join the Homeowner Association (HOA).
HOAs exist in order to manage and maintain common areas, enforce deed restrictions, and keep the neighborhood looking its best…
But what happens when there’s a conflict with your HOA?
How much power does a HOA really have?
Here are some HOA tips to help you navigate your HOA and understand just what power a HOA has:
1) The HOA Makes Up Neighborhood Laws
Yes, the primary job of the HOA is to ensure the wellbeing and good appearance of the neighborhood under its control…
And the law lets them make their own regulatory rules which they think will help achieve this goal.
The Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) of an HOA can dictate things like:
- What color your house should be
- How many cars you can park in the driveway
- The type of mailbox you can have
- What features you can add to or remove from your property and so on…
2) But State Law Limits HOA Authority
While the HOA can make its own laws, but it can never overstep the laws and codes of its state, obviously.
This is important to remember, because it means that an HOA cannot do things like:
- Discriminate against you based on your race, religion, or other group identity specified in the Fair Housing Act
- Take away your government-given rights
- Fine you excessively or without legal cause
- Change the rules without notice
- Stop you from taking them to court
If you think your HOA has laws that are out of line with the state, you can report them.
That is, however, pretty unlikely to be the case.
3) The HOA Can Enforce Rules and Regulations
Now, since your HOA can make its rules and regulations, it’s allowed to put them into force as well.
The thing is… before a resident moves into their new home within the HOA’s control, they’re required to sign a contract with their HOA.
This contract is a promise that they will abide by the HOA rules.
And, remember, the contract is legally binding…
So, your signed agreement will require you to act as they say or face the consequences.
If any people from the community go against the HOA-defined guidelines, they will be flouting the law, and their HOA will have the right to discipline them.
This usually works out in favor of the HOA.
However, there are several instances where people have won their fights against the HOA. It all depends on your state’s laws.
4) Collect HOA Dues and Assessments
Many people use the terms HOA assessments and HOA dues interchangeably, but these are actually different terms.
Every year, the HOA board prepares a budget for their neighborhood projects, and to cover the cost of this budget they set a monthly fee called the HOA due.
But sometimes, there can be unexpected emergencies…
This can include floods in community spaces, upgrades for the community gym, or times when the HOA simply fails to make accurate budget projections.
In these cases, they can collect a one-time special HOA assessment from you to cover the additional costs.
We know it sucks… but it’s their legal right.
5) The HOA Can Impose Fines
A widespread tool HOAs use to bring their members into line (as well as pay for their budget) is by imposing fines on them.
A typical HOA penalty starts at around $25 and can increase to $100 or $200 if you don’t fix the violation.
That’s the bad news.
The good news, as mentioned before, is that the HOA cannot fine you without legal cause.
This means that the HOA cannot just make up a rule and then fine you for not following it.
6) The HOA Can File for Lien on Your Property
If you fail to pay your fines or HOA dues, the Association has a right to file for a lien on your property.
Basically, a property lien is a legal notice that’s put on file as the consequence of an unpaid debt…
And it requires these debts to be paid before any property purchase can take place.
Once the HOA manages to get a lien on your house, your clear record will be stained, and the lien can make it hard for you to sell your home in the future…
Or even lead to an eventual foreclosure!
7) The HOA Can Evict Defaulting Residents
That’s true! Your HOA can evict you from the community in extreme cases of violations or criminal rule-breaking.
Defaulting on HOA fees or crossing a line on the community rules over and over can lead to bad stuff.
Don’t believe that?
Well, recently in Northern California, a homeowner was evicted and foreclosed on by the neighborhood HOA and their $300,000 home was sold off for just $2000 at auction!
So, what was the resident guilty of?
They hadn’t paid up their HOA dues amounting to $600…
Thankfully, the homeowner won the case against the HOA eventually and got his house back.
But the above scene could be enough evidence to show you what power a HOA has.
8) Suspend Your Right to Vote on HOA Decisions
Suspension of your right to vote is definitely an option your HOA can take to make you conform.
Since every community member cherishes their right to vote, the HOA can take away that right from you until you make up for your sins.
9) The HOA Can Even Sue You
Many HOAs have the power to sue their members for breaches of the community guidelines.
Like in Georgia, where you can face a lawsuit from your HOA if you, say, put up the ‘wrong’ type of curtains and don’t take them off, or paint your exterior walls the wrong color…
To sum it up,
no matter how much authority an HOA may have, its sole purpose is to achieve harmony in your neighborhood.
Being a member of that neighborhood, this is ultimately good for your property value and quality of life…
So you should respect your Homeowner Association. Or, if you can’t follow somebody else’s rules, then simply don’t get a house that comes under an HOA!
Yes, these still exist, and there are plenty of them available for sale.
LEARN MORE: Want to learn more HOA tips for homeowners? Check out other articles on the AQRE Home Real Estate Blog!