Issues With Your HOA? Our Top Tips for Navigating HOA Rules With Ease

Most Americans are familiar with homeowner associations (HOAs). In fact, according to the Community Associations Institute, more than 74.1 million Americans currently live in homeowner associations, condominium communities, cooperatives, and other planned communities.

HOAs are responsible for making and enforcing community rules. If you don’t want to or can’t follow those HOA rules, it’s important to know your options.

What is an HOA?

An HOA is a nonprofit organization run by a volunteer board and often a paid management company tasked with managing common areas and community property.  Each Homeowners Association creates its own covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), which cover subjects like resident behavior, architecture, and common responsibilities.

All property owners within an HOA’s jurisdiction are required to pay an HOA fee. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Housing Survey, the average monthly HOA fee is $191 nationally. This fee is used to cover regular expenses like building and property management.

Before you buy a home

Work with your realtor to receive HOA rules, budget, and other documentation during the house buying process. Make sure the rules fit with your expectations of homeownership in a neighborhood. You can use the HOA rules or financial status as a reason to back out of a purchase if you find the rules are too restrictive, the HOA fee is too high, or the finances look too risky for your liking.

On the other hand, the HOA rules and finances may look great and excite you even more to live in a well-maintained neighborhood with people who care about keeping it that way.

How to Navigate HOA Rules

From home occupancy limits to holiday decoration restrictions and everything in between, it can be tricky to stay up to date on all the HOA guidelines. Not only that, but many homeowners find themselves disagreeing with the rules set by their community.

If you’re one of those homeowners, make sure to continue paying your dues regardless. HOAs have broad legal power to regulate community activity and collect fines/fees. If you don’t continue paying your dues, your HOA can and will file a lien against your home or take you to small claims court.

Some variances might include making architectural changes to your property that aren’t listed in the CC&Rs, for example. Some issues can be resolved with a simple phone call to your HOA, especially issues that don’t involve breaking a rule. For example, if you want to have recycling added to the garbage collection route, you’ll want to call the board member who oversees trash collection. Many of the issues that you’ll be able to solve this way will be budget related.

The process will be different if you want to do something that’s explicitly against the rules, such as opening a home office in your garage. If you want to pursue the activity, first you should:

  • Make a written request for variance and submit it to the board and property management company. Use the appropriate form in your CC&R document. A granted variance would allow you to be the exception to the rule.
  • Seek a compromise. Find a middle-ground solution that would be more palatable for the association and ask specifically for that in your request for variance.

HOA boards meet infrequently, sometimes as little as twice a year, so don’t expect a quick resolution to your issues. The process may require a community vote, consulting with an HOA attorney, or other steps that cause further delay. You can prompt a timelier response by requesting a hearing and resubmitting your request for variance with documented support for your case.

Impact the Regulations and Join your HOA

One of the most effective ways to change any set of rules is to become part of the process.

Of course, your HOA may not immediately have open positions. While you wait, you can elevate yourself as a candidate by reviewing the CC&Rs, annual budget, and employee contracts for places where expenses can be cut. You can also volunteer for a board committee or task. If you have any particular professional expertise, offer that expertise as contribution to the HOA.

Once a position becomes open, you’ll be able to put your name forward. If elected, you’re likely to serve a term of one-to-two years.

Getting involved in your HOA can not only help you to create change, but also give you a sense of control of and connection to your community’s fate. You may even find that some of the rules you wanted to fight to change have merit.

Of course, all benefits are not without drawbacks. Involving yourself in your HOA can require two to four hours of your time per month on activities like reviewing property management reports, monitoring budgets, and talking to other community members. Socially, if homeowners in your HOA don’t feel positively toward HOA decisions, you may find yourself becoming less popular. Worst-case, you could be sued alongside the rest of the association.

A Community That Supports You

Your HOA is designed to support the betterment of your community. If you encounter issues, speaking with your neighbors to collaboratively brainstorm solutions can be highly beneficial. Coming to the board with a solution created by multiple voices can help you move your agenda faster.

Navigating issues with your HOA can feel challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. A trusted realtor can help guide you through the process. Whether you’re looking for a new home and unsure about joining an HOA, or you currently own property/are part of an HOA, we Dickson Realty has experts available to answer all your questions.

Contact Dickson Realty today for a personalized home selling experience that guarantees you the best possible return on your investment. Let’s make your home selling journey a successful one!

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