One of the nice things about living in a community that's managed by a homeowners association (HOA) is that you don't have to worry about repairing or maintaining anything other than the inside of your home. While you will have to pay your share every year, your HOA is responsible for maintaining the property.
HOA Fees Cover Repairs and Maintenance
All homeowners in your community share the expense of repairs and maintenance by making regular payments to the HOA. The HOA must use those funds to maintain all structures, such as patching damaged roofs and siding, for example. Your HOA will also take care of the grounds by hiring landscapers to cut the grass, maintain gardens, and trim bushes.
HOAs Use Reserve Funds
Each year, the HOA will set a budget to determine how much money it needs to pay all ordinary repair and maintenance expenses. In many cases, part of this budget will include a little extra that goes into a reserve fund. The reserve fund is used to cover major repairs that aren't planned for in the budget. For example, if a hurricane comes through your area and causes substantial and expensive damage, the HOA may use the reserve funds to make repairs.
HOAs Make Assessments for Major Repairs
A special assessment is an amount that homeowners pay in addition to ordinary monthly fees. Assessments are necessary when an HOA decides to make major repairs or improvements that cost more than the amount in the reserve fund. You may disagree with the repair or improvement if the cost is excessive, especially if it's not essential, but just refusing to pay the assessment isn't always a good idea, since the HOA may be able to put a lien on your home.
Homeowners Can Challenge HOA Charges
Homeowners have legal rights and can challenge their HOA if they feel an assessment or other charge is unfair. Your HOA cannot do anything it wants. It's limited by documents, such as bylaws, that outline what it can and can't do. Therefore, if you think that your HOA doesn't have the right to start an expensive project, you believe that monthly fees are excessive, or that the reserve fund has more money in it than the HOA could ever possibly need, it may be worth getting some help to see if there's something you can legally do to reduce the payments.
A Real Estate Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding HOA repairs and maintenance charges 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.