Can you be forced to join a neighborhood "association"

I found a flyer on my front step to day (I don’t know how long it had been there). It was from the “neighborhood association”. Funny, I don’t recall ever hearing of an association before (and I’ve lived here 10 years, my wife’s been here for over 20). One of the items on the flyer tells me that dues are $15 and are payable NOW! Supposedly the money goes towards renting the local church (two doors down from me) for meetings and to pay for flyers (!). I have never received any notice of any kind of meeting ever. The only time I’ve come into contact with anyone about the neighborhood was about a year ago when I was asked to sign a petition to have new drainage lines put in (ours is the last street to have them).

Can people form a neighborhood association and make you join? I understand the purpose of such groups, but I’ve heard of many horror stories (some here on the boards) about how some get carried away.

This neighborhood is about 60 years old and in the ten years I’ve lived in it, there’s never been any kind of problems.

Does it have the names of anyone you know on it?

Ask them, nicely but with a laugh, “What the heck is this all about?”

Unless they have a darn good reason for it, just nicely brush it off & ignore it.

Probably something that they are trying to organize to deal with either a perceived problem or an anticipated one- not binding AFAIK if you were never
notified about it when you moved in.

Speak to an attorney as soon as possible. I’ve searched for a link, but haven’t located one: when I lived in suburban Phila, there was a townhome project completed in Newtown, and somehow the layout included an older farmhouse. For several years a legal battle raged on between the lady who owned and lived in the farmhouse and the condo nazis who desired to impose their will, fees and petty rules upon her.

My wife recoginzes a couple of the names.

Also on the flyer is a reminder about city ordinances concerning keeping one’s property in acceptable condition (no junked cars or old appliances in the yard, keeping vegitation under control, etc.) and bits about welcoming new neighbors and so forth.

I will likely ignore the “fee” request until someone makes an issue about it.

The only way (of which I am aware) that you can be compelled to belong to a neighborhood association is if the association was founded at the time the development was platted and it is stipulated in your deed. I suppose that it is possible (however unlikely) that your property is located within an association that went dormant and someone has found a way to reactivate it. The clearest way to discover whether you “belong” to such an association is to have the title company scan your deed to see whether such an association is named. If there is no association named and your deed has no restrictions, you should be able to scoff them into dust.

Of course, you may have to go get a lawyer if your state or municipality has some odd rule that allows your neighbors to get together and drag you, kicking and screaming, into an association that you never “joined.” (And if someone has reactivated a dormant association, you should still be able to contest the manner in which it was reactivated–including the selection of officers–without your knowledge and approval, although here, again, you may need the services of a lawyer.)

State laws vary, but this advice works well here. In general, when you bought your house you entered into a contract. The fact that you probably weren’t aware of the terms is not a defense. As far as the law is concerned, everyone should realize that buying property means you assume the duties of a property owner. Part of that contract is between you and other property owners in your subdivision and requires you to abide by the “covenants” attached to your deed or property title. You can check with a title company and I am sure for a fee they will find out what you need to know, but the simplest and best thing you can do is go down to the county courthouse and look up your title. Learning to do that is a skill all homeowners should acquire. Your title will probably be part of a subdivision, and often (in my area) subdivisions are built in phases and you have to make sure you find the terms for your phase. In my subdivision we have no less than 15 phases each with slightly different covenants. Basicly, this contract specifies what you have to do. They are written by the developer and often aren’t well written. They are enforced like any other contract, and if your homeowner’s association is specified as a party to the contract, it is best to start attending meetings. As for creating a manditory Association without your consent, as always state laws vary and there are horror stories from California but in general unless it is part of the title, you can’t be forced to be a member.

I’m pretty sure my subdivision doesn’t have any covenants. One of the neighbors tried to get a voluntary one started a year or two ago. They requested $x (don’t remember how much) in fees. At no time did they show us a budget for what the money would be used for or anything like that. I figured it was just a ploy to try to intimidate some of the Hispanics moving into the neighborhood, so I ignored it.

I hate the idea of covenants. I know some people think it helps maintain “standards,” but dammit, if I own the property, I should be able to do what I want to with it.


I second (third?) researching your title. Here in Calgary, if you are part of a Home Owner’s Association and you neglect to pay your dues, they will show up as a lien on your title, and will be paid when you sell. In other words, they get their money one way or another. Best if you find out if you are actually a member or not.

You could always talk to the board members of your “HOA” yourself, and simply ask them what gives, too.

This is the first time dues were ever mentioned for anything. We have been asked to join the local pool (and did for one year), but that’s about it.

As for meetings, I have yet to hear of any. There was a meeting the city held a couple of years ago discussing the widening and/or screwification of a major thoroughfare that borders the neighborhood, but it had city officials running it and was held in the local high school.

I’m gonna send an email to one of the members listed on the flyer asking for more information. I’ve got a copy of my title around here somewhere and I’ll look for any mention of an association.

I’m the president of our homeowner’s association.

If membership in your association is required, you would have been notified at the time of closing (it would show up in the title search and I don’t suspect your attorney would have gone to closing without notifiying you of such). If you buy into a neighbhorhood that has an association, you’re a member whether you want to be or not (it is part of the contract in buying the house). If someone is trying to start one, that is a different measure.

A former boss of mine lived in a subdivision that had a pool and clubhouse. Membership was voluntary, and they weren’t getting enough $$ in to maintain the facilities. So they changed the contract so that NEW HOMEOWNERS would be required to join. The existing homeowners were covered by the agreement that was in place when they bought their houses, and they weren’t required to join.

They were counting on attrition to bring in 100% club membership over time. But they couldn’t REQUIRE existing homeowners to buy in.

But this is anecdotal evidence in the USA, and may or may not be applicable to your situation.

Well, one would hope. The OP can take a look at the master deed at the Register of Deeds, probably at your county, to make sure. The people there are most likely friendly & helpful, especially if one is friendly to them. (I don’t know where the OP lives, but one reference to the U.S. makes me wonder whether the OP is in the States.)

Yeah. The OP may want to talk to the local municpality to see if they have any good info. E.g., we don’t track covenants here where I work, but we are a reasonable first place to ask exploratory questions. It’s a cheaper first step then contacting a lawyer.

Got some email back from the association’s president. She used to be in another association in town and has moved into my neighborhood.

This whole thing is no more than a woman who likes social interaction and getting involved with her community. Not a bad thing, I guess.

When I asked her what the goals of the association were, she said that would be up to the people in the neighborhood. At the last meeting she asked this question and got zero reponses (hey lady, that’s called a hint, btw). She’s also having trouble getting people to volunteer to be “block captains”.

There’s a meeting Thursday night, but I won’t be attending. I’m not anti-social, just non-social.

I asked what the $15 membership fee is used for and she just repeated the bit about renting the local church’s social hall ($50 per meeting or $100 if the kitchen is used) plus flyers. Even if half the neighbborhood joined and paid $15, that would amount to about $1500 per year collected. I would expect a monthly meeting at least or at least a block party.

May I invite you to read a Bently Little book entitled The Association.

Or Picture Windows.

Well, at least the whole thing doesn’t seem to be sinister or required.

Looks like there’s a lot of rampant apathy, so I don’t think anyone will care if you stay out of it.

Alternately, you could join and try to recruit enough people to have money for that block party. This woman sounds like she’d jump on the idea, even if she didn’t have it herself. (Of course, you might have to agree to be a block captain.)


Neighborhood associations aren’t always a bad thing. They usually don’t have the clout that homeowners associations have, and they usually act as a way for the the people in a neighborhood to get together and discuss whatever affects the neighborhood.

Where I live, the neighborhood associations are recognized by the city, but the have no power in setting policy. What they can do is discuss city issues and act as an organized bloc of voters. It helps when a couple of hundred voters can invite the councilmembers or the area police supervisor to discuss whatever affects the neighborhood.