Most condo and planned development owners have a love/hate relationship with their homeowner’s association (HOA). As in, they love when it blocks a neighbor from building an eyesore that will jeopardize property values. But they hate it when the HOA blocks them from doing what they want to their own property.
HOAs maintain shared properties, doing upkeep on common areas like elevators, pools, security gates, garages, roofs and the exterior of buildings. They do this by collecting a set monthly fee from all the occupants. The higher-end the development, the higher the fee. If a major renovation or upgrade is deemed necessary, all the residents will be dinged for an additional cost.
The HOA also makes rules called covenants, conditions and restrictions. These could cover everything from size and type of pets allowed to exterior paint colors. And, of course height, style and building materials for fences. The idea is to keep peace between neighbors, maintain property values and give the development a cohesive look.
Occasionally an HOA will grant a variance to a resident, so he or she can deviate from the standards. But don’t count on it. When you buy into a development with an HOA, you’ll be most serene if you can follow the rules.
Tips for Happy Coexistence with Your HOA
Know the rules.
Ignorance is no excuse! In fact, it can be costly. Research the rules before you make any changes. For example, if you build a fence that’s higher than permissible, your HOA can legally require you to take it down. It’s also important to know the rules before you even buy. Maybe somebody is trying to sell you property that is already out of compliance.
Research the Fee Structure
Obviously you want to know the monthly fees. But delve a little deeper. Find out how the fees are set, how often they increase and how much they’ve been raised in the past 10 years. Inquire about the amount of the reserve fund, and what special assessments are likely in the near future. Remember that since fees are divided equally, the smaller the HOA, the bigger your share.
Assess the Drama Level
This suggestion sounds really boring, but see if you can attend an HOA meeting before you buy. Or at least read the minutes of the past meeting or two. This way you can find out what conflicts you are stepping into. Find out if the HOA is professionally managed or run by volunteers. Talking to board members and a few non-board members can give you a feel for the politics, petty rivalries and the potential drama quotient of a community.
To Thine Own Self Be True
Are you a rebel? An individualist? Do you wear your Halloween socks year-round? Do you always question authority? If so, this kind of community might make you feel like you’re living under a dictatorship. Do everyone a favor and buy a home somewhere without an HOA.
Fences and HOAs
Since HOAs like to rule on all exterior changes to your property, fence issues come up a lot. For best results, be patient, follow all the rules and communicate clearly with your HOA.
First, give the HOA plenty of time to evaluate your prospective new fence. It could typically take one to six weeks for your HOA to grant approval. But if you don’t hear from them, you need to follow up until you get a definite verdict. Never assume that no news means it’s okay to build your fence.
Give them plenty of data. Project drawings, pictures and blueprints will help communicate your plans. Include specific dimensions, colors and materials.
Don’t assume that because your neighbor has a certain type of fence, you can, too. Maybe your neighbor is in violation and for some reason the HOA hasn’t acted yet. You’re responsible for following the rules, whether or not your neighbor does.
If you’re planning to install a new fence, call your friends at Buzz. We’d be happy to supply you with samples and drawings to present to your HOA. Once your design is approved, we’ll be ready to get to work for you.