Tips for Dealing With Your Homeowners' Association

Over the past 50 years the growth of the HOA has been substantial. The Homeowners Associations serve an essential role in many communities. They are designed to maintain the covenants of a neighborhood, preserving its integrity and value.

The HOA may cause headaches for homeowners in certain situations. Knowing how to deal with your homeowner’s association can help you avoid possible problems and get the most out of the organization.

Use these tips below for dealing with a homeowner’s association to make your condominium or home ownership experience more enjoyable and less stressful.

1.Know Rules and Bylaws

Like other corporations, the HOA is governed by a board of directors who are elected by the members and a set of rules called bylaws.

The bylaws govern how the HOA operates and contain the information needed to run the HOA as a business. For example, the bylaws cover matters such as:

  • How often the HOA holds meetings
  • How the meetings are conducted
  • The duties of the various offices of the board of directors
  • How many people are on the board
  • Membership voting rights
If you're thinking about buying a home in an HOA community—or you already live in one—you should take the time to familiarize yourself with both the CC&Rs and the bylaws so that you're aware of any neighborhood restrictions and you fully understand how the community operates.

2.Expect the Best from Your HOA

As HOAs become increasingly common, they face controversy regarding their commitment to protecting homeowners. All HOAs behave differently. It is important, nonetheless, to ensure your HOA is acting for you. After all, you're paying for it. Check if your neighborhood facilities are in good shape, up to code and attractive to potential home buyers. Your HOA is doing a good job if your neighborhood is suiting your needs and wants, and the board treats you and your neighbors fair and reasonably. But consider this: If your HOA suddenly increases fees and fines, it might be because it's poorly managed its revenues.

3.Communicate with Other Members

One of the biggest advantages of living in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association is the bonds you can form with your neighbors. You might never talk to some of them, but they are paying the same monthly dues and working to stick to the same regulations, so you have a lot in common, and this might come in handy.

4.Stay Involved

Those who have no interest in joining a board should stay involved nonetheless. The best way to know what is going on within the community is to attend board meetings and to hold members accountable. As with any community, the best way to ensure that one's agenda is put forth is to be active within that community. Getting involved in your HOA is a great way to influence the policies and regulations of your community.

5.Get Approval Before you Make Changes

Even a simple front door replacement can violate the rules of a homeowner’s association. A typical HOA requires approval to make changes to exterior walls, the structure of the building, or aesthetic alterations to the exterior. Windows and entryway doors, by their very nature, fall into this category. While you may be fed up with a small, drafty casement window that you wish were a bay window, you will need to submit your project to the HOA before proceeding with an update.

6.Run for a Position on the Board

If you are on the board of your HOA you have the ability to;

-Protect Your Property
-Correct Problems
-Meet More of your Expectations
-Gain Better Understanding of the Laws
-Have Fun Experiences
-Learn Life Lessons
-Help Build a Resume
-Learn Leadership Skills

7.Pay Your Dues on Time

It seems like a big price to pay, but if you fall behind on your association dues, the HOA can foreclose your home. After foreclosing on your home, your association can auction it off and evict you. The best way to avoid this type of situation is to pay what you owe and pay on time.

8.If You’re Fined, Accept It and Pay

You have three options for dealing with a fine. First, you can pay it. The situation will be over and done with. Your second option is to try asking for a variance, which is an exception to the deed or covenant by which your HOA functions. Sometimes, especially if the HOA doesn't want a legal battle, the variance will be granted. In many cases, the HOA will hold a hearing to which other homeowners are invited, to discuss whether or not to grant or deny the variance. Your final option is taking legal action, but this should be your last resort. It is possible to win a lawsuit, and sometimes the HOA will have to pay your legal fees. However, homeowners have taken associations to court  over a few hundred dollars to come back, owing the HOA the original fines or dues plus thousands of dollars in lawyers' fees. The worst thing to do is simply refuse to pay the fines without telling your HOA why you're not. You could risk foreclosure, and considering the hard-playing reputation HOAs have, it's better not to tempt fate.

9.An Unresponsive Board

If your HOA is unresponsive to written communication, the first thing you want to do is take every action to contact the directors by phone. If you get no answer, find out if they are holding a meeting and attend it. If they still don't address your concern, you might need to seek legal advice.

10. If Rates Increase, Pay Them

What do you do if the HOA keeps increasing your dues at alarming rates? First of all, pay them. There are too many risks involved, including foreclosure. Second, review your deeds and bylaws to see what your legal rights are. If you can initiate intelligent dialogue with the HOA board, do so. Unfortunately, HOAs have reputations for being set in their bylaws and, if you don't have any legal basis for your objection to the rate increase, you might be out of luck.

Contact our team at Atlantic and Pacific today for a custom HOA proposal!

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Suite 200

  • San Diego CA 92129-1600

  • (858) 672-3100

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