Home Owner Associations (HOAs), also called Community Associations or Condominium Associations, have a major image problem. Many people have an instantly negative reaction toward these organizations – usually because they hate the idea of rules or any organization telling them what they can and cannot do in their own homes. People who already live in a community with such an association, however, probably tend to have a neutral opinion of their HOA, with some having a very positive opinion of these association.
So, are Home Owner Associations Friend – or Foe? One thing is certain, Home Owner Associations exist by the thousands across the country – in active adult, 55+ communities , condominium buildings, and most planned developments. They provide order to daily life in these developments, and they have no shortage of issues to deal with. All you have to do to get an idea of the scope of the problem is to visit a popular website like the Community Associations Network. Go to their site and you will see where the rubber meets the road; problems hoping for solutions.
Consider this list of association problems, which typically occur wherever groups of people live together in close proximity while sharing common property and resources:
* Pets (barking, defecating, biting, roaming, etc)
* Children (in 55+ age restricted communities)
* Decorations (flags, plants, paint, structures, fences, holiday, etc.)
* Guests (who can stay and for how long, and what facilities can they use)
* Parking (where and what types of vehicles and for how long)
* Use of common facilities (hours, costs, condition, etc)
* Dress code
* Construction projects
* Non payment of dues
An HOA that is a friend helps to prevent and mitigate these situations, through wise and forward-thinking leadership. An effective HOA presides as the authority that sets rules and enforces infractions. Without anyone in this role anarchy, lawsuits, and enmity await.
On the Foe Side
On the foe side of the equation, there is no shortage of ways an HOA can be more of a hindrance than a help. HOA boards made up of opinionated, uninformed, and lazy members can be and are often a disaster.
Here are some of the problems ineffective boards create and foster:
* Rules that are established without the support of the residents
* Ineffective or arbitrary rule enforcement
* Failure to study long term infrastructure needs and set aside funds to pay for them
* Frequent assessments that could have been avoided with planning
* Undertaking ill-advised construction and renovation projects
* Inadequate financial and management oversight
* Poor maintenance practices
* Discrimination or favoritism
* And perhaps the most common problem of all – poor communication with association members
We see posts from many baby boomers who already think have the answer – HOAs are the foe. Fortunately, these folks usually self-select, they avoid active adult communities or condominiums, or they choose a community like Lake Weir Living that does not have an association. Other people tolerate HOAs; they know they are necessary but don’t necessarily have to like them.
Our opinion is that HOAs are necessary in today’s shared communities. The good ones do a wonderful job of communicating with fellow residents, setting up and enforcing reasonable rules, and planning for the future. They make the pleasant enjoyment of everyday life possible by their effective management. Qualified home owners volunteer to take their turn on the board, while other residents are informed about the issues and give helpful feedback. Ineffective HOA’s can not only permit the destruction of one’s quiet enjoyment of their property, but they can cause real personal and financial harm. They can have capricious rules that engender lawsuits, unplanned for expenses and assessments, and who harass the residents with silly rules. If there is no association at all, owners face 2 possible authorities: the developer, or anarchy. All too often developers are too self-interested to perform the function well. And if no one is charge, the person with the biggest mouth will take over – kind of like an old western town with no sheriff. The most important piece of advice we have heard about HOAs comes from Joseph West of the Community Associations Network, who advises that before you move into a community, you check out the Home Owners Association. If you don’t like what you see, walk away, no matter how nice the unit seems.
What is Your Opinion?
Please share your opinion in the Comments section below.
For Further Reference
Meet the New Boss – Your HOA
How to Get Ready for Your New HOA
What You Need to Know When Your Developer Turns the Community over to the HOA
HOA Rules and Regulations – Friend or Foe