RealManage Insight

How to Be a Better Homeowner in an HOA

by Steve Walz on Nov 30, 2021 9:40:00 AM

There are many benefits to living in a community with a homeowner's association (HOA). Benefits include:

  • Consistent property values.
  • Use of common areas.
  • Compliance standards.
  • A sense of belonging to the community. 

The homeowners, like the HOA board, have responsibilities. Below, we will address some of your questions and highlight some of your duties as a homeowner.

What is a Homeowner's Association?

When first establishing a community, the developer or builder usually sets up the HOA. Then, once the community has a sufficient number of homeowners, the developer or builder turns the HOA over to the homeowners.

Usually, an HOA is a non-profit organization with board members who are homeowners in the community elected by homeowners.

What does the HOA Board do?

The board of directors, among other things, vote on any revisions of association documents such as by-laws, covenants, etc., to ensure they comply with changes in laws and ordinances and do not violate the homeowner's rights.

The board also enforces the rules as stated in the various HOA documents.

Are there HOA Fees or Dues?

Yes. These fees or dues pay for maintenance and repairs of common areas. The amount depends on the amenities in the community as well as taxes, insurance, and other expenses.

The homeowners have to pay the dues even if they don't use the amenities.

What are Assessments and Special Assessments?

Assessments are the HOA fees or dues you pay, as mentioned above, for the usual expenses such as:

  • Insurance
  • Regulatory fees
  • Taxes
  • Audit and tax returns
  • Landscaping maintenance
  • Other common area maintenance
  • Minor common area repairs
  • Snow removal and other weather-related expenses
  • Utilities for common areas
  • Reserve fund

A special assessment is to pay for unexpected major expenses. This assessment can be for a myriad of issues, including:

  • Major Repairs of Amenities
  • Major infrastructure repair or updating.
  • Major expansion of amenities
  • Other unforeseen circumstances

What Other Responsibilities do Homeowners Have?

One of the first things that you should do is familiarize yourself with the covenants, rules, policies, and procedures of the HOA. By doing so can prevent you from accidentally committing a violation.

It would be best if you also familiarize yourself with your rights as a homeowner. In addition to the constitutional (namely The Bill of Rights as contained in the first ten amendments), state statutory, and local ordinance rights, you could have additional rights and privileges in the community documents.

The Homeowner and the Board

As a homeowner, you are a Steward of the community. Therefore, it is essential to keep a pulse on what is happening with the association at the board level. The community governing documents should detail the association's responsibilities, the board parts' election and removal processes, the duties and powers of the board, and much more.

Communicating with the Board

When communicating with the board, you should always do so respectfully. As the old saying goes," You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to ensure the HOA is operating and managed correctly. 

If you notice something that appears to be non-compliant, bring it up to a board member. You can also notify the board of the issue by sending the board a letter. The letter should be:

  • Brief
  • Factual
  • Well-intentioned
  • Include the date and time you noticed the issue

Keep a copy of the letter so you can refer to it if needed.

You can also mention the issue at a board or general meeting. However, when speaking at a conference, be courteous and tactful while expressing your concern.

If other homeowners are affected by the issue, organize a team to support you at the meeting.

Get Involved in Your Community

By being an active participant, you become more knowledgeable about the functions of the association. Easy ways to get involved include:

  • Attending meetings
  • Volunteer on a committee
  • Go to social events
  • Engage on the community's digital platforms such as its blog
  • Answer poll questions
  • Voice your opinion

It's your community in which you have invested a lot of money in purchasing your home. 

It's up to you to understand the governing documents and your rights. Stay active with your community so you know what is going on.

By doing so, you can have a happy relationship with the community.

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