HOAs, or Homeowners associations, are a staple in Arizona. As of 2020, Maricopa County has around 5,675 HOA Communities. That means half of all homeowners live within a single-family neighborhood or condo that is regulated by an HOA. So what is an HOA and what do they do? What do your fees pay? What are the benefits of an HOA? How do you work with an HOA?
WHOA what’s an HOA?
A homeowners association, or HOA, is a governing body composed of neighborhood residents who are responsible for maintaining commonly-owned areas, enforcing the subdivisions covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), and abiding by its bylaws.
An HOA elects a President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary to serve on their Board of Directors. Depending on the size and what the community comprises of, some HOAs elect directors over pools, clubhouses, or events. These elected officials are also members of the community therefore they all have a vested interest in maintaining the neighborhood. HOAS are organized as corporations and are treated as non-profits by the government.
To ease the administrative duties of the board members some HOAs hire a Management Company. Generally your billing statements, violation notices, etc are from the Management company. As long as the Management Company enforces within its rights, as stated by the bylaws, they are the face of the HOA.
Why are HOA’s Avoided?
Much of the hesitation that comes with moving into an HOA community is the additional payment that is made monthly, quarterly, or yearly. HOA fees vary based on the community and the amenities. Larger HOA’s with pools, clubhouses, golf courses, and gated entry will have a higher fee to help pay for those luxuries. Smaller HOA’s just take care of the common areas, walkways, and small items. As you can imagine caring for common areas is not an easy task and it is the job of the HOA to maintain those areas and provide repairs when needed. Landscaping, Pool Maintenance, Restroom Cleaning, Gate Mechanics, Clubhouse Cleaning, and Street Cleaning all add up, your fees help pay for those accommodations.
In addition to large fees, residents don’t love living with restrictions! Upon moving into an HOA regulated community a homeowner will receive a copy of the CC&Rs and the bylaws. CC&Rs are the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions of the neighborhood. HOAs are known to regulate Exterior Paint Colors, Commercial Street Parking, Front Yard Landscaping and Maintenance, Trash Can Storage, and RV Parking and Storage.
How Does an HOA Enforce Their Rules?
The bylaws regulate how the Board of Directors and HOA can conduct business. How the HOA enforces standards depends on your neighborhood’s CC&Rs and bylaws. It can also depend on city ordinances. For example, if an issue such as grass length is regulated by both CC&Rs and a city ordinance, the board may notify the city and ask them to enforce their ordinance. If there is no overlap between CC&Rs and city ordinances, the board is responsible for enforcing standards in the CC&Rs. They may do this with a phone call, visit, or formal letter, depending on the CC&Rs and bylaws. If a homeowner repeatedly fails to comply with requests to fix violations, the homeowners’ association may take legal action. This could include filing a lien against the property.
Why Have An HOA?
Homeowners have a Love-Hate relationship with Homeowners Associations. I have outlined many of the reasons why they are not liked, but what are the benefits?
HOAs protect the value of your home and your community. Neighborhoods that are preserved and well taken care of attracting more Buyers. HOA regulations also keep your home in great shape so when the time comes for you to sell the bucket list is short and the home has been kept up. Another way they maintain value is by providing neighborhood events and that sense of community. Block parties, BBQs, and Holiday Parties are put on by the HOA to bring everyone together and establish relationships among neighbors.
How to Deal with an HOA?
HOA’s are people, plain and simple, and more importantly, they are your neighbors. If you have an issue with the HOA take time to attend the meetings and get involved!!!! Meetings are not just for board members, they are open to the public. If your issues are of a fee nature, call the management company and talk to them, they typically are easy to work with and accommodating.
If you are interested in a home that has an HOA don’t view that as a reason to walk away. First, see if the CC&Rs are available to the public online. If they are, read through them and see if the regulations are something you can work with and what the fees are going towards. Also, take a tour of the neighborhood, if the parks and common areas are in good condition then you should feel confident that your payments are being well used. If they are not, then you have some reason to be concerned about the HOA board and their use of funds.
HOA’s are not the enemy and can easily be managed. If you know the rules and restrictions of the community prior to moving in then you can prepare for what is expected. Attend an HOA meeting! Whether you have an issue with the HOA or not, it is always beneficial to attend a meeting and see how things work, what topics are being discussed, and to use your voice. HOA’s are there to protect you and your investment so find a way to work alongside them and you would be surprised by the change it will make.