Identical TownhousesHomeowners associations (HOA) are common in some single-family housing developments, as well as condominium and townhouse complexes. An HOA is the governing body of the development or complex.

Membership Is Mandatory

When you buy a property governed by a homeowners association, you automatically become a member of the association. You don’t have the choice of not joining. The purchase of your home becomes a contract with the HOA. You agree that you’ll obey all the HOA rules.

Rules for Homeowners

HOA rules are called covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R). CC&Rs usually apply to both you and your home. They might cover what color you can paint your home, what you can plant in your yard, how many cars you can own and park, and whether you can own a pet. There are usually noise restrictions as well. Rules differ, so carefully study the CC&Rs before you buy.

There Are Penalties for Breaking the Rules

When rules are broken, many HOAs punish homeowners. Many HOAs are corporations. As such, they are legal entities that can enforce contracts with their homeowners. The usual penalty for breaking a rule is a fine. If you refuse to pay, the HOA can take other steps, such as forcing the sale of your home.

You Must Pay Dues

Homeowners in a covenant-controlled development usually pay association fees or dues, either monthly or yearly, as part of their membership. HOAs use this money for maintenance of common areas used by all the homeowners, such as walking paths, swimming pools, or recreation centers.

Advantages of HOAs

HOAs balance their restrictions with advantages. If all the homeowners follow the rules, you will never have a nuisance neighbor. Your property value, based partly on neighborhood condition, will be stable. You will have access to luxurious amenities, like a pool, golf course, or recreation center. You will have a voice and a vote in a defined community.

A Real Estate Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding homeowners associations is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a real estate lawyer.