Nov. 18, 2016 — Ask a group of retirees what they think about living in an active adult or 55+ community and you will get a wide range of responses (as we did in our recent Member Survey). Most people seem to think they are OK. But a common anecdote you will hear from a certain subset of folks is that they cannot/will not to live in a community that has a Community Association (also known as Home Owner Associations – HOAs). Their attitude seems to be that HOAs are a loathsome bunch, dominated by cliques on power trips. In this article we will explore attitudes towards HOAs as reported in some actual surveys, as well as why they sometimes generate negative opinions. In this we were fortunate to receive input from Joe West, CEO of the Community Associations Network, the largest free website of information for people on HOA boards.
Actually, most residents are positive about their HOAs
By large majorities, most of the people who actually live in community associations rate their overall community experience as positive or, at worst, neutral. That was the chief finding of the 6th national survey from the Community Association Institute (CAI). Our recent Topretirements Member survey, which included many people who have not yet had the experience of living in community with an HOA, also showed favorable HOA attitudes – 68% had neutral or favorable attitudes.
These were some of the conclusions from the CAI Survey:
– They say their association board members serve the best interests of their communities
– They say their community managers provide valuable support to residents and their associations
– They support community association rules because they protect and
enhance property values.
– Using a 1 to 5 rating scale, 65% rated their overall experience living in a community association as a 4 or 5.
– 36% “absolutely” think the members of their elected governing board strive to serve the best interests of the community as a whole
– 81% say they are on friendly terms with their current community
– 55% feel the amount of their overall assessments that they pay for the services provided by their association is just about right
Insights from Joe West, CEO of the Community Associations Network
His organization helps community associations with the challenges they face running private communities. Their website is great and full of news about what is actually going on in condo and HOA communities across the country. We are once again fortunate to get his expert knowledge and insights into these issues.
We asked Joe West why some folks have negative attitudes toward HOAs. He made the following points in his email to us:
– “How Condos and HOA’s came into being – and they are here to stay. When local taxes became an abomination in the late ‘80’s, local communities started losing revenue. One easy way to help is to allow developers greater density in return for taking some of the costs off the back of the municipalities. Therefore HOA’s and similar legal entities were created to take care of roads, retention ponds, drains, trash removal, etc., all with no reduction in local taxes. Until you are ready to pay more in taxes, HOA’s will be a favorite of communities. For example, in my local city, every subdivision is responsible for its roads. If the HOA that was originally formed has gone under, the city simply forms a tax zone and assesses additional taxes for the road repairs. This has become the norm just about everywhere. We can thank the local tax reformers of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s for this”.
– Potshots from The “Reformers”. These critics like to take pokes at CAI because they have become a trade association, made up mostly of managers, attorneys and vendors. But CAI is the only really organized group out there fighting for the associations, which sometimes is not always in sync with what individual owners want. This is where the “Reformers” (who might be more like “HOA Haters”) take their potshots, hammering the foreclosure problems and rule enforcement issues. They can always point to anecdotal stories, but for the most part, the associations try to be fair. CAI is still the best source for education and publications for association operations and is the only group able to even try to stand up to the developer/real estate/attorney/mortgage lender lobby, which is where the real power lies in dealing with state legislatures. Just about anything that interferes with the sale of a unit/home, either new or re-sale, or adds costs to this, rarely makes it through the legislatures.
– The critics find plenty of problems, but never say anything good about board members, volunteers or attorneys – they are always the villains.
– Think of associations as microcosms of society. They elect leaders, some good, some bad; people get involved, people don’t; there are taxes (assessments) that people don’t agree with; people have problems with neighbors; there are rules you have to abide by, just like state and local laws, even if you don’t agree with them; people are getting shorter-tempered everywhere, not just in associations; local politics doesn’t stop at city hall; nobody likes the assessments (taxes); why should you expect associations to somehow be different.
Unrealistic expectations? Why do people (Reformers) expect perfection from community associations, when you’re dealing with people and being governed by untrained, unpaid volunteers who you elected”.
Thanks Joe, you just gave us some good understanding of why community associations were created and why some people find fault with them. We appreciate your involvement, and are cheered by the survey results that show most people are happy with their HOAs.
Notes about the CAI:
The CAI has more than 34,000 members. You can visit it at www.caionline.org
For further reading:
Topretirements has an extensive series of articles about Community Associations which you might find useful:
Part 1: Meet Your New Boss – Your HOA
Part 2: What You Need to Know About Your New Home Owners Association
Part 3: What You Need to Know When the HOA Takes Over from the Developer
Part 4: Community Associations: Friend or Foe
The Community Associations Network
Comments? What is your actual experience with Home Associations. Have the ones you have seen done their jobs effectively and fairly? Or did you see abuses that should have been avoided. Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.