Whether you want to be subject to the rules of a homeowners association should be one of the factors you take into consideration when you buy a new home. These associations are run by real estate developers and designed to keep property values stable. According to MSN Real Estate, roughly 20 percent of homeowners in the U.S. are subject to homeowners associations. For those living in recently-built homes, that number rises to 80 percent. Depending on the guidelines it imposes, a homeowners association can either give you added security or make life in your neighborhood difficult to manage.
Homeowners associations regulate everything from the color you can paint your house to what you can plant in the front yard. These regulations aren't in place to be restrictive. Rather, the rules set up by a homeowners association are designed to prevent residents from doing anything that would negatively affect the value of surrounding homes. When you move into a development that utilizes a homeowners association, you do not have a choice as to whether or not to obey the association's bylaws. Once you become a resident, you're bound by them.
Dues and Fines
Homeowners associations offer a variety of benefits to residents. These services vary but, in general, homeowners associations provide routine property maintenance and services such as trash removal. In return for these perks, each homeowner in the development must pay monthly dues to the association. If you fail to do so, the association has the power to place a lien against your home and, in some cases, foreclose on the property. Unpaid homeowners association fines will continue to grow until you pay them or the association seizes your home. If you violate any of the guidelines of the HOA, the association has the right to fine you.
Challenging the Rules
If you believe that a certain bylaw is unfair or discriminatory, or if you have reason to propose a new bylaw, you can usually make your proposal to the homeowners board. Some HOAs schedule regular meetings that give residents the opportunity to voice their opinions. If the board has treated you unfairly, you have the option to take the case to court. If your complaint involves fines, its a good idea to pay the fines while your case is pending even if you don't believe the fines were justified. If you let the fines build up and the court sides with the association, you could lose your home.
If you're hesitant about subjecting yourself to the rules and regulations of a homeowners association, its wise to find out just what you're getting into before you buy a home in an HOA-managed neighborhood. Consider contacting the association and requesting a copy of its bylaws. Some homeowners associations are surprisingly lax and won't interfere with your garden décor or what kind of pets you keep. Others, however, might control every aspect of your home and its appearance. Reading the bylaws beforehand gives you the opportunity to search for a home elsewhere if you know you can't or aren't willing to meet the HOA's standards.
Ciele Edwards holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been a consumer advocate and credit specialist for more than 10 years. She currently works in the real-estate industry as a consumer credit and debt specialist. Edwards has experience working with collections, liens, judgments, bankruptcies, loans and credit law.