While a nuts-and-bots discussion of what an HOA is (and what it does) is arguably a matter for GQ, istm that since the OP was asking about his options are to get out from under an HOA, it becomes a discussion of legalities, and therefore better suited to IMHO.

I’ve sent a report suggesting a change of venue.

The only reason I’m mentioning it is because I can hardly believe that nobody else has already done so (the fact that nobody has mentioned reporting it is not proof that it hasn’t been done; but my mentioning that I did may forestall someone else deciding to perhaps further pester the mods about it).

Did you ask your neighbor to provide you with some literature about the HOA? Why were you under the presumption that there was no HOA? Did you instruct your REALTOR/real estate agent to exclude such properties from your consideration? If so, did you put the instruction in writing?

A similar thing happened to me. We bought the house, no HOA, no granite counters. A few weeks later a neighbor and I were complaining about the mail and she said one of her mail pieces that had gone astray was the HOA bill and of course I knew how they were about that.

I panicked.

It turned out that a lawn maintenance company had offered some kind of deal where the more people who signed up, the cheaper the maintenance was. I don’t know whether the previous owner had signed up–the lawn sure didn’t look all that maintained and it looks worse now–but it wasn’t binding on us.

So check it out. It could just be a misunderstanding. Or it could be the kind of thing that once you join it you can’t get out and it is binding on the next owner.

Where I live (Colorado, USA) there is a disclosure form and they do have to tell you if there’s an HOA and how much the fee is.* So really, all I had to do was read my paperwork.

*And if there were pets in the home, plumbing issues, smoking in the home, and about 300 more questions.

You know that huge stack of paperwork you signed at the title company? Go through each page and find out if you signed any sort of agreement about an HOA. Typically it will be included with those docs. If it’s there, it will likely be it’s own contract that spells out what you can and can’t do on your property, as well as what the dues will be used for. You can also call up your title company and ask them, as they will likely have record of it if it exists.

Being in an HOA isn’t necessarily bad. I personally like it because of the conformity. I don’t have to worry about unmowed lawns, boats/cars stored in the front yard, etc. Some HOAs are bad because the board is made up of nitpickers who are living out a power trip and will ding you for any infraction. But the HOA board is made up of people who live in the neighborhood, so the board can always be changed.

Moderator Action

Welcome to the SDMB, Sgtdanno.

It’s probably not obvious from the forum descriptions, but we prefer real-world legal issues to be in our IMHO forum, just to emphasize the fact that any responses you get here are just the opinions of some online folks and should not be taken as the equivalent of professional legal advice.

It’s no biggie. I’ll move the thread for you.

Moving thread from GQ to IMHO.

Yes, there are two kinds of HOAs. There’s the kind where membership is mandatory, the association may make rules about how you can use your property and some services might be provided. There may be common property or facilities, like a pool or a playground. There’s usually a deed restriction. It’s similar to a condo association - the difference is that you own your house and a specified piece of property not a “unit”. This type of association and its dues is usually mentioned in real estate listings that I’ve seen and the restriction should show up in the title search.
Then there’s the other kind, the voluntary sort. They go by different names in different places - “homeowner’s association”, “residents’ association” “property owner’s association” “block association” and so on. They are completely different from the first type. Membership is not mandatory,the dues are very low ( like $30 per year), they don’t have the power to make and enforce rules, and the “services” they provide are events like holding meetings with local politicians, organizing a neighborhood-wide yard sale or spearheading a campaign to get a traffic light at a particularly dangerous intersection. These are not mentioned in real estate listings and would not show up in a title search. There may be multiple organizations open to residents of the same neighborhoods - I wouldn’t call them “competing” because people often belong to more than one.

OP ,did the neighbor tel you the name of the HOA ?- if so, you should be able to tell which type it is by checking their website.

My HOA isn’t too bad. I pay 200 bucks a year and much of that goes into lake maintenance (weed and algae control). They also prohibit gas engines on the lake because it’s not very big and it’s swampy and motor boats and jet skis would churn it into mud soup. Plus the noise would be annoying. They prohibit chain link fences and a few other things. Nothing too oppressive.

Not in this backwater.

The lack of riff raff is a big plus. Sometimes HOA are intrusive jerks who regulate the height of your lawn but sometimes they are the people that keep your dirt bag neighbors from using their front yard to store 3 generations of cars in various states of decay.

Personally I’d rather have decaying cars next door than another layer of government over me, raising fees and telling me I can’t paint my shutters green or build another building on my property.

Over here HOAs or their ilk, are only found in blocks of flats (condos?) where they are necessary to deal with all the maintenance etc of the communal areas and the building.

The role of the HOA elsewhere is mostly taken up by the local council which apart from running all the local services like police, fire and rescue, schools, refuse collection, road maintenance and sweeping etc, controls planning which prevents me from putting anything more than a shed in my garden, stops me from having over-height fences and restricts the size of my neighbour’s extension.

If my neighbour neglects his house and lets the weeds run riot there is little I can do about it unless the weeds are really nasty like giant hogweed. I can’t make him paint his garage door or stop him from painting it pink either. All I or anyone else can do is to apply pressure and negotiate - an option with a regrettably high rate of failure.

We also have a law which says that I must disclose everything to any potential buyer, so if my neighbour plays loud music all night I have to disclose it.

In practice, the better neighbourhoods are the more mature streets with few rentals. Most people take some pride in the place where they live but short term lets with absent landlords and social housing can be problematic.

I suspect that it’s the same the world over that the quick way to assess a street is to look at the cars parked there.

This is another reason that HOA’s can be beneficial–owners will self-select for the type of community they want. The people who want full creative control over their property will choose independent communities and those who want the neighborhood to have certain standards will select HOA communities. Neither preference is right or wrong, but lots of problems happen when owners have vastly different perspectives about what kind of community their neighborhood should have.

Anytime I’ve house-hunted I’ve told the real-estate lady (it’s always been a lady) that I do not want to look at any homes in HOAs. Period. Don’t waste my time. I’m serious.

It has worked.

After a few phone calls to the county courthouse, there has never been an HOA filed in this county. But the paperwork from my neighbor shows a “legal” HOA signed by neighborhood 5 year’s ago. And signed and stamped by local attorney. My understanding of the law is that once paperwork drawn up it needs to be submitted to Court’s. From m finding this was never done.

This is true. Trouble is the HOA rules you sign up for initially can change drastically over time. The HOA I lived in had a board and at some point they decided we should be living in country club instead of a working class weekend resort.

That sounds like pretty good news for you. You did not enter into that agreement, so you should not be bound by it. They may pressure you to join, but I doubt if they can force you to. DO NOT JOIN THE HOA WITHOUT TALKING TO A LAWYER. No matter how nice or mean your neighbors are about it, don’t agree to the HOA without fully understanding the consequences.

There’s another variation on this kind, a voluntary association that has unenforceable covenants. These can show up in a title search, but only an attorney could tell you if any such covenants have ever been, or are likely to be enforced, not by the government (it’s a civil, not a criminal matter) but by an association or anyone else.

I’ve had attorneys for prospective buyers call me – because I have been on the local association’s board for a long time, and am known as a local historian – to ask about this. Anyone looking at most local deeds is appalled by some 90 year-old provisions, and can’t believe they are still legal (they aren’t), and no one has ever attempted to enforce them.

Does the phrase “not of the white race” show up in those 90 year old provisions?

You’re on the right track.

Among the things prohibited by the 1937 covenants were keeping chickens, ducks, cattle or pigs on your residential property, or allowing a person of non-Caucasian ancestry to sleep overnight.

This might not sound so unusual for the time, but what is even more interesting is how serious the covenant framers felt each violation was. If you were caught with a cow in the kitchen, a pig on the porch, or a duck on the divan, presumably the sheriff would write you a ticket. But if you were caught with a Jew waking up on the couch in the morning, the violation was so serious that you would instantly lose your property, reverting back to the previous owner, without recourse to the courts. (That’s exactly what it says.)

1937 priorities were a little different from now.

Riffraff, maybe, but it doesn’t keep out your run of the mill assholes.