The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Homeowners’ Associations

By definition, homeowners’ associations (HOAs)  are organizations formed by real estate developers to market, manage, and sell homes in a particular residential subdivision, and those who purchase homes in those subdivisions must abide by the covenants and rules. In the U.S., HOAs have become increasingly common since 1964, with an estimated 24.8 million homes and 62 million residents governed by them.

As is the case with virtually everything, there are pros and cons to homeowners’ associations. Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

  • HOAs uphold community appearance. Many HOAs set standards for how homes within their purview must look so there will be fewer houses with unkempt lawns, outlandish paint colors, garish holiday decorations, or other eyesores. Thus, neighborhoods overseen by HOAs are very well-kept.
  • In many cases, HOAs provide maintenance services such as trash and snow removal, lawn and landscape care, and common area upkeep, thus giving homeowners less work in this area.
  • Many HOAs provide and maintain recreational amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, clubhouses, security gates and guards, walking trails, sports courts, parks, children’s playgrounds, playing fields, and exercise facilities.
  • The HOA is a built-in mediator to help with neighbor disputes such as barking dogs or excessive noise.
  • HOA members can request rule changes or individual waivers or can even be more proactive and serve on the HOA’s Board.
  • Homeowners can get to know their neighbors through HOA activities such as Board participation or other events.

The Bad

  • Some homeowners may find HOA standards too rigid for their liking. They may not want to be told what color they can paint their house, what flowers they can plant, that they cannot install solar panels or basketball hoops, what breed of dog(s) they can or cannot have, or what type of vehicles may or may not be parked on the property, for example. Some HOAs even regulate sheds, clotheslines, outdoor lighting, satellite dishes, window coverings, holiday decorations, and the list goes on. Failure to abide by the rules oftentimes results in hefty fines.
  • Homeowners may lose some freedoms by having to follow the HOAs rules, even if residents do not agree with them.
  • Those dues. HOA fees depend on several factors such as the services covered, location, and other amenities. Whereas these fees may seem exorbitant, they eliminate other expenditures for the homeowner such as snow removal or gym membership costs.
  • The HOA can raise dues at any time and for reasons such as assessments, cost of living increases, lawsuits, or nonpayment by other homeowners. Adding insult to injury, HOA dues are not tax-deductible.
  • When homeowners stop attending HOA meetings, the resulting power to make decisions for the entire community is left to fewer people who may not share the same views and values as the rest of the community.
  • HOAs can dictate whether homeowners may or may not rent out their homes.

The Ugly

  • A poorly run or financially unstable HOA can harm homeowners’ abilities to obtain a loan for a home in the neighborhood and may hurt community housing prices.
  • You may become the victim of a “rogue” Board member who tries to assume unreasonable power and control.
  • An HOA can evict homeowners and even foreclose on their homes due to liens for nonpayment of fees.

Whereas many homeowners enjoy the security and convenience of an HOA, others reject the potential loss of freedom. Of primary importance is to read the HOAs rules and regulations carefully before considering purchasing a home in a particular area to avoid potential unwanted surprises down the line.

For more information about homeowners’ associations, please contact us.

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