Home Owners' Associations

How do these associations work? We have an HOA which regulates what kinds of fences, out buildings, etc. one may have, but exactly who decided the regulations? I don’t recall having any say and I was one of the first ones here. Also, if I own the land, how can anyone legally tell me what kind of fence/out building I can and can’t have? What happens if I don’t pay the fees?

You need to read what are called the CCRs, which used to stand for Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws. You need to see what the laws are in your state with respect to HOAs and integrate all of this in your head. You will then know more than the little tin dictators. It varies from each state, and can vary in each complex. Some HOAs own nothing, some own common areas. It really depends.

When you bought the property, you signed a contract saying that you would abide by the CCRs. You should have a copy of the CCRs with the paperwork for your purchase. Part of the contract was that you agree to pay the fees. If you don’t pay the fees, then you are in breech of contract and are subject to a civil suit.

Smacks of Communism, if you ask me! :smiley:

As for paying the fees, it depends on the HOA.

In my neighborhood, the fees are $15 per adult each year, and it is not mandatory to pay them.
If you don’t pay the fees, you can’t vote on issues at meetings, which could be important, and you can’t win prizes in the Christmas decoration contest, which is just stupid.
I think that’s about it.

And as mentioned, when you went to settlement, you signed something which said you would abide by the covenants and by-laws. You should have a copy, probably stuffed in with all your settlement papers.

Codes about fences and out-buildings are sometimes determined by county or states laws, which the HOA just incorporates into their own by-laws. The builders sometimes sets down guidelines, too, if they want a certain “look” to be maintained with regard to paint color.

Just for fun and edification, not meant as legal advice, I’ll give it a shot:

Homeowners associations get their authority through covenants running with the land, which are sort of like easements. In an easement, someone else can sell you some land, but keep a nonpossessory interest; e.g. I’ll sell you this house if I can still come in the backyard and use the pool. That would be an “affirmative easement”, the right to come on your land and do something the easement-holder wouldn’t have the right to do ordinarily.

A negative easement would be the right for another to demand you not do something on your land, e.g. I’ll sell you this land so long as you don’t build a house over two stories that blocks my view of the bay.

A covenant running with the land is similar, except with an affirmative covenant the buyer/covenantor can be required to not only allow some action but do things as well, like keep his her/lawn mowed (negative covenants and easements are virtually indistinguishable). Because the covenant “runs with the land”, not only the original parties are bound to the agreement, but anyone else who subsequently buys the land even though they didn’t agree to it. The land is subject to it, like a mortgage.

Basically, you own your house, but not all of it. The developer retained certain rights and restrictions on your land in the orignal conveyance, and anyone who buys the land from you buys it subject to that even though they don’t agree to it. Nonpayment of fees depends on the original agreement and the state, but some of the more facist methods give the association a lien on your whole damn house.

I was on the board of directors of a HOA for 3 years. It was in a brand new subdivision.

Our covenants specified that if you didn’t pay your dues, the HOA could put a lien on your property. We had to do this several times to get people to pay ($200). About 60% of the landowners lived out of state and didn’t see any benefit to paying fees on land they didn’t occupy. The problem was that with only about $6000 per year coming to the HOA, we needed every penny to maintain/upgrade new roads, plow roads, build a cash reserve, etc.

The lien wasn’t for much ($200) but just having the lien on your property could cause major problems with banks if you went to sell or develop.

It also depends on whether your HOA wants to pursue things legally. There were a few things we let slide (minimum house size) because it would have cost too much to pursue with lawyers.

I’d suggest you pay the fee and join the board of the HOA if you disagree with some of the covenants.

And always remember the words of Rush (the band) in their song “Subdivisions” -

“Be cool or be cast out.”


Amusing story from my days on the HOA board:

All of us on the board were Montana natives, which led to some cultural differences with those who “moved to Montana so I can be a Montanan.” (actual qoute)

One of the board members got a call at home one night from a woman who said that a porcupine was eating one of her trees and wanted to know what the HOA board was going to do about it!

Bert said, “I’ll come out and shoot the SOB, but it’ll cost you a six pack.” She hung up.

After that the board voted 6-0 to paint a porcupine on the “Happy Acres” entrance sign, but the wives wouldn’t let us.

First you must tell us what kind of development you live in. Is it a condominium development, as most of the posters have assumed (except for the one that pays only $15 a year)? Townhouses also have HOA, but the legal concepts are entirely different.

In a condo, you own all of the inside of your house, but only a percentage of the outside and all the outside area. What percentage you own is determined by the number of owners in your development. If there are 40 condo owners, you own an undivided 1/40 of the outside. This is all determined by your local state law and by the declaration establishing the condo, as well as by the by-laws of the association and any amendments to it. If it is a condo you own, you should have been furnished a copy of the declaration and the by-laws. (State law is something you’d have to research yourself, but that’s usually incorporated in the declaration establishing the condo.)

Townhouses are different. You own the entire parcel, including the outside area of your particular parcel, but all the other owners in the development have easements over all the “common areas.” These “common areas” are the same as the outside areas in the condo, which also refers to them as “common areas.”

The association is also responsible for the upkeep of them. Hence you will be paying a lot more than $15 a year. Even a lot more than $15 a week in many cases. The by-laws will require at least an annual meeting of the owners. You must have received notices of these annual meetings. You can raise any questions you have at those meetings and if you don’t have all the papers, insist that you be furnished them. In addition, the by-laws will provide for officers and directors of the association who will hold periodic meetings, usually on a monthly basis.

If you don’t pay the assessment fees, the association will record a lien on your unit. This is not a “fascist” movement, but a necessity. The association needs the fees to maintain the propery (the common elements), provide for contingencies and reserves (such as roof and siding replacements, which are their responsibilities), cut the grass, etc. When you sell your unit, the buyer will insist that all those liens be satisfied.

I mean fascist in the nicest possible way, of course:)

The latter seems pretty reasonable, but the former is just disgusting!

Clearly, these Home Owners’ Associations are out of control.


[sub]OK, I’ll go now…[/sub]

Just to clarify, that was mine that was only $15 a year. Suburban single-family homes, 50 years old.

Walked right into that one, didn’t I?

Hail, I been sayin’ that for ages. Get my place here in the sticks. We alwas liked goin naked, we moved hear and sudden like, peopl is bitchin’.

Hang yer skivies out to dry and shore nuff, the neighbor’s bitchin.

Minds me of thet salesman thet sold us this hear place, kep mentenin how we had covens and somethin’. My ol’ lady told him “jus keep bitchin’. we know how to hang yer ass out ta dry.”

You keep bitchin’ Imagonna sic my wife after yoo!

Just to clarify some more, there seem to be two different types of organizations called “homeowners’ association”. One ssems to have fairly high fees, membership and fees are a condition of buying the house and the association provides services of some kind. The other type ( like the one I belong to ), is strictly voluntary, has low fees ( mine is $10/yr), has no legal authority and might as easily be called a “resident’s association” or block association. The only services provided are civic- the Santa parade, meeting with government officials.

If you can get Search to work, Search for a thread I started in here a while ago about this very topic. There were many very good and very detailed responses in it on this subject. I’d post the link, but it’s taken me nearly 14 minutes to get this far as it is.

I sort of get it now after reading some of your posts. Yes, we pay our fee always. The reason I asked is that I’ve heard some of the neighbors complain about other people’s sheds and such (like the color not matching the house). Also, one guy told me he was refusing to pay until the builder came back to complete a 30-day list of repairs (you give them 30 days to fix whatever’s not right with your house) and these guys are really spread too thin. Anyway, thanks for the posts and I’ll look for that old thread.


** MURASAKI **, you haven’t told us what kind of development you are in. I assume a condominium since there was a complaint of a non-matching shed. These condo developments seek uniformity. One should look at the development and see everything uniform. If this is not to your liking, you should not buy a condo. Before anyone does anything to the common elements, approval from the Board is necessary. If the guy painted his shed without approval, someone should have stopped him during the process. He didn’t paint his shed in five minutes. How long ago did that happen? What I’m getting at is that he should not have done that without approval, someone should have stopped him, but if it took him a while and it has been there a while, estoppel lies against the Association and he can no longer be required to remove it, IMHO.

As I mentioned before, they certainly do provide services. They take care of the maintenance of all the common elements, provide for management, and provide their budgets and financial statements to the Owners.

We live in a cookie-cutter development of separate houses. The sheds in question are at the other end of the development, so all I know is what my one friend over there told me. And as for building, I think they are old sheds (two separate houses did this) that were brought in somehow. Hope this clarifies things.

Well, OK, you own a house, but there is a sort of “HOA” that BiblioCat lives in. When you bought the house you got a deed that states that you are in that HOA and subject to the dues, regulations, etc. of that HOA. The Association decides the regulations and I’m sure that you have input if you just ask around. As to how can anyone tell you what kind of fence, etc., you can have, as I said you bought the house subject to the HOA regulations. In addition, everyone who has a house is subject to zoning laws which tell you what kind of fence, etc. you can build sometimes, set-back lines, how you can use the property (residential, business, etc.), and other limitations of the use of your property.

Just to clarify even more:
Mine is a civic association. We make our check out to Neighborhood Name Civic Association. The money pays for things like a Santa Walk, prizes for the Christmas decoration contest (which you can win, but don’t get a prize if you don’t join the civic assoc.), upkeep on the tot lot, and whatever else.

My HOA is pretty cool with the rules.
Having work done (addition to your house, garage, shed, fence, whatever), requires approval from the board. We;ve done quite a bit of work and never had a problem. They just want to make sure you’re actually improving your property, not gutting the house and turning it into a ferret breeding farm or something.
Sheds are okay, whatever color you want, I guess. We’ve been here 8 years and never heard of any problems with anyone over a shed color or style.
With regard to fences, pretty much any type of fence is okay. You can’t fence your front yard, and if your neighbor has a fence, you can’t put a fence right up against theirs, no 8-foot stockade fences, basic stuff like that. When we fenced our yard, the neighbor on one side already had fenced his yard, so all we had to do was the other side and the back.
In the neighborhood where I grew up, they had pretty tight rules about fences. No chain link fences, no colors except white (that sounds really racist, but I mean paint colors), I think you were limited to split-rail and picket styles.

The townhouse communities around here (Baltimore) are REALLY anal about things, even dictating mail box colors and trash can styles, believe it or not. I know there have been court cases about swingsets, too. :rolleyes:

It’s funny to hear someone complain about living in a place with an HOA; calling them Nazis, comparing it to communism…if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have moved there! It helps keep the property values up!

Living in a house doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t live in a condominium. I live in what is called a site condiminium. It looks just like any subdivision with regular houses. I own my house, and the “buildable area” on my lot. The rest of my lot (about half the area) is called (IIRC) limited common area. It’s owned in common, but I have sole use of it and responsibility for it. There are also more general common areas (e.g. a bit of land with the sign naming our subdivision).

There are a handful of people who don’t want to pay their dues ($75 / year :rolleyes: ). Our board is pursuing leins, and talking about suing to force a sale.