Who Are These HOA Bullies? (Part 1 of 3)
Anytime I see the term “HOA” in a news article, online post, or email, it’s almost always a negative review. (HOA stands for “Homeowners Association” and refers to a defined neighborhood of homes, townhomes, or condos that are governed by a set of written rules with mandatory fees to live in that neighborhood.)
HOAs are often referred to as “bullies”, “busy-bodies”, or “power-hungry people” whose sole purpose in life is to make your life miserable. News outlets like to publish/air stories when an HOA has stepped in to steal a family’s home, even though they did “everything they were supposed to do”. Neighbors like to air grievances about how their neighbors don’t mow their lawn often enough, park their cars on the street, or have dogs that bark all day and night, but they got a letter saying they needed to repaint their home. Frankly, who would want to live in an HOA and why do they even exist?
HOA’s were created by builders/developers who wanted to turn over the day-to-day management and maintenance of a neighborhood once a certain number of homes were sold. The idea was to make the homeowners bear the cost of maintaining entrances and common areas, create a single point of contact for maintenance, and help maintain the overall value of the homes the developer had just invested in building. For local municipalities, this was a win-win because it meant property taxes came rolling in for them and the cost of maintaining the community was extremely low (street lighting, water/sewage, trash collection, and public street maintenance is usually covered by the local municipality via taxes.)
When a developer starts a new community, they team up with a law firm to draw up the “rules” for the HOA. These governing documents adhere to State and local laws, and are often referred to as deed restrictions, by-laws, covenants, etc. They’re legally recorded documents and are enforceable in a court of law. Some HOA’s can be quite strict in their rules, others less so, but all are with the express intention of maintaining the appearance and value of homes and the community at large.
Are YOU the HOA “Bully”?
So now you know a little about how and why HOA’s were first created. Next question…who are these HOA “bullies”?
Surprising answer – you are! If you own a home in an HOA, you are a member of the HOA.
When you first considered buying your home, your realtor should have informed you the home was part of an HOA. The realtor or your title company should have provided you a copy of the HOA’s governing documents. (It’s a big document with a lot of pages!). Ideally, you should read those long, boring, legal documents prior to making an offer on the home or sometime before you buy it. HOA rules can be very specific, such as limiting what color you can paint your house, how many pets you may keep on the property, what size mailbox you must have, what style fence you may install, what kind of outdoor decorations you may display, etc. For some people and their preferred lifestyle, HOA’s can be too restrictive. For others, it’s exactly the kind of control and neighborhood appearance they prefer.
I bet you weren’t anticipating that you – the innocent homeowner – are the mean, power-hungry, HOA bully you complain about? Now that you know that, it’s time to look for the next party to blame in this HOA fiasco: the HOA board.