HOA

My wife and I bought a home under the presumption that there was no HOA. 4 days after taking ownership of the property are Neighbor comes down and informs us of his name and informs us of the HOA that governs this subdivision. What are my rights? Do I have to follow the HOA?

IANAL, but I’d assume you need to follow the HOA rules or be subject to their sanctions. The only relief I could see is if a HOA is considered a material latent defect. In most cases it is difficult to prove the homeowners knew of the defect, but it should be trivial in this case. You might be able to get some compensation.

But to be honest, it really sounds like you didn’t do your homework here.

What does the deed say?

You’ll need to consult a lawyer to know what your rights are.

Call your county courthouse and see if it has a deed restriction. Typically an HOA will have deed restrictions and if they do, you’re in trouble. Of course, you could claim that the previous owner didn’t inform you of them and try and negate the sale. If it doesn’t have any deed restrictions, then it’s a so-called ‘voluntary’ association and you can tell him to get bent. Your realtor can also tell you if there are deed restrictions.

I would get in touch with your realtor.

When you say “under the assumption”, did you just assume there wasn’t one, did someone tell you that or did you get a signed statement from the previous homeowner stating there wasn’t one? I think each of these things would have different ramifications.

When I bought my house, the previous homeowner, as part of the flurry of paperwork that went back and forth, had to sign something stating that there was no HOA. Just like I had to sign something stating that I was aware of the airport a block away.

“under the presumption that there was no HOA.” Why did you make this presumption? Did you do any due diligence to determine this?

I would say you got poor representation by your Realtor (did you use a buyer’s agent?). I do not know enough to say whether someone else fell down on the job.

I am the president of an HOA. In my state (what state do you live in?) sellers are required by law to provide the HOA documents to the buyer. The buyer may cancel the contract upon review of the documents, although the law does not provide a remedy if the documents are not provided and there is no cancellation before settlement occurs.

You may need a lawyer. The HOA may invoice you for HOA fees (usually monthly or quarterly), and may have rules that you disagree with. You may want to get a copy of the HOA documents, which you are entitled to. The specifics will vary by state and your deed, and IANAL.

Virginia state law:

§ 55-509.4. Contract disclosure statement; right of cancellation; use of for sale sign in connection with resale; designation of authorized representative.
A. Subject to the provisions of subsection A of § 55-509.10, an owner selling a lot shall disclose in the contract that (i) the lot is located within a development that is subject to the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act (§ 55-508 et seq.); (ii) the Act requires the seller to obtain from the property owners’ association an association disclosure packet and provide it to the purchaser; (iii) the purchaser may cancel the contract within three days after receiving the association disclosure packet or being notified that the association disclosure packet will not be available; (iv) if the purchaser has received the association disclosure packet, the purchaser has a right to request an update of such disclosure packet in accordance with subsection H of § 55-509.6 or subsection D of § 55-509.7, as appropriate; and (v) the right to receive the association disclosure packet and the right to cancel the contract are waived conclusively if not exercised before settlement.

For purposes of clause (iii), the association disclosure packet shall be deemed not to be available if (a) a current annual report has not been filed by the association with either the State Corporation Commission pursuant to § 13.1-936 or with the Common Interest Community Board pursuant to § 55-516.1, (b) the seller has made a written request to the association that the packet be provided and no such packet has been received within 14 days in accordance with subsection A of § 55-509.5, or © written notice has been provided by the association that a packet is not available.

B. If the contract does not contain the disclosure required by subsection A, the purchaser’s sole remedy is to cancel the contract prior to settlement.

I don’t know how that could happen. Before I bought my house, I was told that there was a HOA, what the monthly fees were for it. Prior to the closing, I was given a copy of the current bylaws for the HOA as well as financial information for the HOA. Somebody screwed up big time, or some scam is going on.

Is it possible there’s a voluntary HOA? A few years before I moved in, my neighbor moved in and said they had one. After a few days, someone showed up, told him about the HOA and tried to get him to join. He said ‘why? so you can fine be if I don’t cut my grass, I’ll pass’. As far as I know, he never heard anything about it again and it was gone by the time I got there.

Are they required to tell you about it if you’re not required to join?

We don’t have HOAs over here thank goodness. I was recently watching a house-flip TV programme and a prospective buyer was a bit shocked when the agent told her that the HOA charge was around $250 a month. She hummed and hawed a bit and decided not to buy - I would have been off like a shot.

What would one expect to get back for that kind of money?

Nevermind. A lot of my points are addressed.

For that price, there are probably all sorts of community amenities. Almost definitely a pool, maybe a little water park area, a lodge and private park. Sometimes the HOA will actually do your lawncare for you and may even do outside maintenance. If you’re in a condo, they can be high just because of the infrastructure maintenance required to keep a large building operating correctly. You also have private sewage and water systems that can come out of HOA fees. All sorts of stuff.

For legal disputes, the best advice is to consult with a competent attorney in your jurisdiction. You should also closely read the documents you received over the course of buying this house. My guess is that you are bound by the HOA rules.

Did you ask your real estate agent if this house had an HOA and/or tell them that you did not want a house with an HOA? If so, they could have done a better job of pointing out the HOA to you but I doubt they are on the hook for any HOA fees.

Did the listing for the house show that it was in an HOA or that there was an HOA fee? Most listings in at least disclose whether there is an HOA even if the listings sometimes show the wrong fee or don’t show a fee at all.

Did you receive any disclosures before you submitted your purchase agreement? The HOA is ordinarily disclosed in a seller’s disclosure packet before you even make an offer although practices around sellers’ disclosures vary from place to place. A seller offering a property isn’t generally required to disclose an HOA before a would-be buyer makes an offer.

Did you get title insurance or hire a title research service? If so, what does their report say about the homeowners’ association? If you bought title insurance but they failed to disclose the HOA, you may have a claim against the title insurer.

Did you receive the HOA documents before settlement? Most people want to review all the settlement documents before the actual closing and so request these things in advance and read through them closely so there are no surprises.

Did you receive the HOA documents at settlement? Most states require the seller to disclose the HOA to you after your offer is accepted and before closing. This can be done one minute before closing with the flurry of paperwork you got then. Most states will allow you to cancel your purchase agreement without penalty within a certain number of days after receiving the required disclosures but only up until closing. Once you’ve closed, this remedy is lost. Again, a lawyer can help you to know your rights.

My concern for you is that at some point in this process, you were told in writing that there was a homeowners’ association. Instead of taking the time to understand that fact and how it might affect your interest in the property, you seemingly bought the property based on your presumption instead. That decision could prove costly.

My condo fees are about $250 a month and include water and sewer, all landscaping and snow removal, pool, maintenance of all common areas (everything exterior of the sheetrock of my living space) etc. plus a reserve fund for major projects like new roofs. Its pretty fair, IMHO

Heck, mine at $30/month and we have fields and mowing, a pool and a clubhouse. God knows what trouble they’d get up to at $250 per month.

Neighbors who aren’t Riff-Raff.

Reason number 323 I don’t live in a suburb.

Maybe everything exterior of the sheetrock of your living space, as was written. It’s not unusual to see condo fees around here in excess of $800/mo. Typically in larger tower type buildings.

Condos are a little different than the OP’s problem. You are not going to move into a condo and not realize there is a condo association.

Not just suburbs, HOAs can be way out in rural areas.