Homeowners Association Fees and How to Reduce the HOA Fees Fines
Seriously, Homeowners Associations Fees can be super annoying. I'm with you and I personally hate paying for mine.
That's right, I live in an Homeowners association and hate paying the fees every time they come around. Not just the fees, but also the fines that can come if you don't comply with the HOA rules!!
After 2 years of dealing with the Homeowners association fees, fines, regulations, I get fed up.
That is when I joined on as an HOA Board Member. BUT…
I thought I would kick in the door, and exclaim, “There's a new Sheriff in town…”
That was so NOT the case.
But, I did learn some great things on how to get out of paying the fines and working through the bureaucracy of the HOA.
I also became the President of the HOA and made some good changes. Once you are inside, you can affect change in a positive direction.
Even being President, I couldn't get out of the regulations and fees unless I changed them with the vote of the other homeowners.
What is a Homeowners Association?
A homeowners association, or simply HOA, is a form of self-governing organization established in communities that share the same common interest.
Homeowners who are members of an HOA pay fees collectively for the maintenance of buildings or the surrounding community.
Homeowners associations are often run by the resident homeowners who are elected to the board of directors. This board oversees the management of the homeowners association.
Properties in a homeowners association are under the governance of the collective set of bylaws and rules. A homeowners association can also consist of townhouses, individual houses, condos or high rises.
Homeowners association fees usually pay for the common areas like parks, lawn maintenance, and swimming pools.
Strict rules and routine maintenance help preserve the best appearance and condition of the neighborhood to maintain stable values of the properties, uniformity, and cleanliness.
Homeowners Associations Are Made of Regular People
Some people find the phrase “homeowners association” as safe and even innocent. But, for others, the mere mention of it is enough to send shivers down their spines.
This group of homeowners is often portrayed in movies and books as suspicious, meddling, and power-hungry.
However, do they really deserve such a negative reputation? What is really the truth behind this so-called homeowners association?
Honestly, they are just regular people, in fact, they are your neighbors.
If you treat them with respect, you will most likely get respect in return.
How to Get Out of HOA Fees Fines
It is a bummer when you get sighted by the HOA and they fine you for not being in compliance of the Homeowners Association Code.
The best and only way to really get out of the fees and fines is to ask the board of directors to abate them. (wipe them out)
There have been many times someone has come to the board meeting requesting leniency on fees, fines, and regulations. If they are polite, respectful, and ask kindly, the board was much more likely to say yes.
If the person came storming in, mad at the HOA, yelling, etc. then it was much less likely that they would be shown leniency for the HOA Fees and fines.
So, the way to protect your money is to be curtious and patient WHEN you go to the board meeting and request the refund or removal of the fines.
(Yes, you have to go to the board meeting…)
What are the Homeowners Association Fees?
Homeowners association fees refer to the amount of money paid every month by the owners of specific forms of residential properties.
These fees are collected by HOAs to help with the improvement and maintenance of properties within the association.
These homeowners association fees are charged on condominium owners most of the time although these can also be applicable in certain neighborhoods composed of single-family houses.
For condo owners, homeowners association fees commonly cover all the costs of the maintenance of the common areas of the building including patios, lobbies, swimming pools, elevators, and landscaping.
The association might also charge some special assessments every now and then in the event that the reserve funds are insufficient for covering major repairs like a new roof or a new elevator.
These homeowners association fees can also be applied to single-family homes in some neighborhoods, especially if common amenities are present like a community clubhouse, neighborhood parks, and tennis courts that need to be maintained.
HOA fees tend to be varied although some estimates state that these fees can range from $100 up to $700 a month with a rough average of $200.
But, these fees can differ depending on the things that the HOA offers. In general, the fees are higher if there are more amenities and services.
What the Expenses in the HOA Fees
There are also cases when owners pay higher fees due to the improper management of the reserve fund.
This is the reason why it is important for potential homeowners to investigate first if a certain HOA is effective before they agree to purchase a house within the community.
In addition, the buyer must also add the fee’s cost to their planned budget when trying to decide whether the property suits their budget or not.
If a property owner under the governance of a homeowners association fails to pay the required annual or monthly fees and the special assessments if there are any, the HOA could take action against that delinquent homeowner.
These actions are dependent on the specific contract between the homeowner and the HOA.
There are contracts that allow the HOA to charge the homeowner with late fees while others let the HOA start a lawsuit, put a lien on a property, or even foreclose the property of the owner to collect delinquent payments.
Once a member fails remitting payment to the homeowners association, this can affect other community members.
Common areas might also suffer because of the absence of funds while other members might be charged with special fees that will cover the costs of maintenance or other similar expenses.
Who Controls the Homeowners Association?
Homeowners association are typically operated and controlled by the board composed of homeowners who live within the community.
There are also other HOAs wherein the real estate developer is in charge of running them. It is important to know how receptive the people who are in charge are in cases problems occur.
If the homeowners association has a scheduled meeting, it is recommended to attend it to get a good sense of how things are being run.
Where Do You Find the Homeowners Association Rules?
Homeowners association rules are known as CC&Rs or covenants, conditions, and restrictions.
Homeowners association covenants can be applicable to townhouses, condos, or single-family homes, from cul-de-sacs to penthouses.
If you are planning to buy, once you learn that the neighborhood is being governed by homeowners association rules, it is important that you first get all the important details before you make a final decision.
You can do it by obtaining the homeowners association CC&Rs.
There are several savvy ways that you can do to find the homeowners association rules:
- You can directly contact your homeowners association. Many associations offer online access to these association rules and other community documents to their existing community members.
- Send a written request to your association for inspection of the official records of the association. It is the right of the owners to inspect and even make copies of these rules.
- Talk to neighbors and other community members to know about the homeowners association rules.
- Check the public records of the office of the county recorder. All counties have offices in charge of the storage and maintenance of public records. These documents of the association should be recorded with the office of the county recorder for them to be enforceable.
How Do You Find the Homeowners Association Management Company?
It can be a big challenge to effectively run a community.
A homeowners association is usually in charge of the management of corporations’ business affairs while they balance the needs and wants of the neighborhood community.
But, such responsibilities are usually more than volunteers want or can do without the support of professionals.
Once the volunteer board of directors finds the tasks overwhelming, most homeowners associations hire homeowners association management company that can help in effectively carrying out the community’s management.
You can directly inquire from your homeowners association if they are working with a management company or not.
Can a Homeowners Association Evict You from Your Home?
The homeowners association board can take some action against members who fail to pay. These include the issuance of a warning, placing a lien on the house, or forcing the homeowner to foreclose.
But, the actions that an HOA can take can vary depending on the laws of the state.
How Do You Fight the Homeowners Association?
As the owner of a home within a planned development or a condo, you will automatically become a homeowners association member that lets you share ownership of the common areas.
The board of directors of the HOA enforces and establishes the owners’ responsibilities and rules.
Although homeowners usually appreciate the amenities and protection that a HOA provides, owners may sometimes object things done or weren’t done by the HOA board.
If you ever decide to fight the homeowners association, the first thing you can do is hire an attorney who can help you in winning your battle. Other things you can do include the following:
- Study the regulations and rules of the HOA.
- Try working things out first with the HOA.
- Check if you really have grounds to file a lawsuit.
- Sue the homeowners association if you have legal grounds.
Where Do You Find the Homeowners Association Bylaws?
The homeowners association bylaws describe all the mechanics and procedures of the decision making and management of the homeowners association.
It includes director and officer positions as well as how these positions are filled, how notification, voting, and meeting are done for the decisions of the board members and owners and the reporting and record-keeping methods.
A legal professional usually creates the homeowners association by laws and the government reviews it once a development has been made.
However, these are not filed with any agency of the government and this makes it easier to change them compared to some other types of documents.
Typically, bylaws are not recorded since these are internal document to a corporate. There are several states that require condos to record a copy of bylaws with declaration.
Can You Refuse to Join the Homeowners Association?
If you have plans to buy a home that was established within the past few years or build a new house, there is a chance that you will be living in a community run by the homeowners association.
The homeowners association is responsible for fulfilling different functions in a community.
Such as maintenance of a specific aesthetic that pertains to the landscaping and architectural standards of the neighborhood, and providing upkeep and maintenance of any public spaces and facilities in the community.
Even though there are a lot of benefits associated to being a part of a homeowners association, they usually have a negative reputation. Some homeowners might even wonder if they can refuse to join one.
Just so you know, some homeowners associations have a voluntary participation and some are mandatory. It is expected that those living in communities with voluntary membership don’t have to join.
However, they might not receive the advantages that are associated with being a part of an HOA.
On the other hand, those who are living within a community with a mandatory membership need to join the HOA, pay assessments, and follow the standards of the neighborhood.
Mandatory HOA Fees and Membership
Generally speaking, you cannot find any way around this mandatory membership. Membership should be taken seriously, the rules should be followed and duties should be paid.
In case you purchase a house within a neighborhood with an established HOA already, you need to join as a part of the condition of buying the new house. Assessments are going to be payable once the sale is closed.
You don’t have the choice to refuse joining the homeowners association.
The bottom line here is that if you don’t want to be part of the association, you might have to look for a home somewhere else.
Meanwhile, if a homeowners association is formed in a community where there was no association that existed before, current homeowners, in general, are not required to be a member of the HOA.
Similarly, there are times when a community that has voluntary membership to the HOA will decide to be a mandatory HOA community.
More often than not, this decision is done because of dwindling participation or funds which are required to continue the upkeep and maintenance of public amenities.
During such situations, the homeowners don’t have the obligation to join but most could be convinced into joining after the adequate explanation of all the benefits associated with HOA membership.
An association can also be formed to include as many homes as needed to join and the covenants, conditions and restrictions or CC&Rs.
These CC&Rs could dictate the provision that states that the moment these households that don’t join get sold, new owners are going to be required to participate in the association and start paying the assessments.
Make the Best Out of HOA Membership
When buying a property within a community with a homeowner’s association or condo association, it is important to remember that their existence is for the purpose of maintenance of the community in behalf of the residents.
Most of the residents who are living in a community sharing a common interest claim to have many positive experiences.
For as long as you participate, follow the rules and pay all of your dues and fees right on time, the experience you will have with a homeowners association is expected to be satisfactory.
In case the board is unresponsive, you suspect a poor management or you notice any other issues, it is best that you get involved.
You can do this by volunteering to be a member of the board, attending the member meetings, or filing a complaint.
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