When living in a place with many people, such as a neighborhood or apartment complex, the question always sounds- who is going to take care of the lawn care, sidewalk maintenance, pool, gym, and other such amenities? The answer is often an easy one- the homeowner’s association. Though occasionally they get a bad reputation, HOAs are actually quite helpful for many reasons. Plus, there are often ways to make sure that your homeowner’s association is doing the best it can for your neighborhood.

The homeowner’s association’s job it to keep property and neighborhood values high by enforcing the neighborhood bylaws. A bylaw is a rule or ordinance created and agreed about by a board or committee that must be followed by everyone in the group. In this instance, it’s referring to the rules and regulations agreed to by all people residing in the specified neighborhood.

It’s not uncommon for HOAs to charge monthly or yearly dues. These funds go to many different aspects of keeping up the community areas. Homeowner’s associations often charge more or less depending on the types of amenities offered. The fancier the neighborhood or apartment complex, the more likely it is that the HOA will charge more money monthly. In addition to a monthly fee, it may be a good idea to see how often the fees have been raised in the past. This will give a good look into how well money is being budgeted and used, as well as how often to expect a price hike. Plus, it may be good to attend meetings to see what how the funds are allocated. In reality, though they may come across as demanding or pushing, homeowner’s associations are quite helpful. Many people have had quarrels with their neighbors over various things- from gardening to where they park their cars. The HOA is there to help settle disputes as well as helping to hold the neighborhood members accountable for keeping public areas clean and well groomed.

In addition to keeping up appearances and standards through neighborhood community specific rules, the members of the homeowner’s association have to become familiar with the laws and ordinances of the city, such as whether or not an area is safe for basements, etc. Because of this, some rules and regulations may not have anything to do with the committee members and may have everything to do with obeying the city regulations.

While having a homeowner’s association can be fantastic, there are some people who feel that the HOA is picking on them. This is often not the case, but in situations such as this it may be a good idea to speak with neighbors and make sure that others are not feeling the same way. If there is an overall feel of bullying throughout many residents, it may be time to head to committee meetings and let the committee know that there is a disconnect between the HOA and the neighborhood dwellers. Many HOAs also allow for committee members to be appointed once a year, so it may be a good time to take matters into different, more well trusted hands.

A new law was put in place in Idaho in 2014 to help make sure that residents and their HOAs communicate more clearly. Previously, some residents felt that their homeowner’s associations were unfairly fining them, so Senator Jim Rice stepped in and pushed a law through that required HOAs to clearly inform residents prior to fining them. This has helped to curb the disputes between those who are helping to keep neighborhood values high and those who live in the neighborhood. While this was a slightly controversial ruling, many who own homes feel that they have more of a chance to explain and more time to work to fix up their home.

There are a few things to do when looking to buy a home that can help to ensure a good fit with the homeowner’s association as well as the home itself. The majority of HOAs post the information about rules and consequences online via a website or facebook. There should also be ways to find the answers to questions or contact the committee directly to address questions and concerns.

One helpful tip while looking to buy it to make sure that the home is up to date on the HOA rules. Occasionally, a house will pop up on the market with a few violations to neighborhood covenants, so it’s a good idea to make sure things are taken care of prior to purchase so as to not inherit problems with the home. Additionally, it may be worthwhile to make sure that you approve of the rules. For example- some HOAs require that those with a browning lawn to put money and time and extra watering or fertilizing into practice to green up the lawn, while some homeowners disapprove of excessive watering, etc.

Many people live in communities that are run by homeowner’s associations and can attest to the merit of having a ruling group to help to calm grumpy neighbors, keep the grass trimmed, and clean the ponds and fountains in the neighborhood. It’s not uncommon to hear about different improvements that HOAs plan for neighborhoods and apartment complexes as well, and it is a good thing to point out that without such committees, many neighborhoods would be cared for much less and many times home values would tank due to disputes and a lack of rules. So, next time a sign announcing the neighborhood sprinkler blowout pops into view, remember that there are so many things running smoothly thanks to the local HOA.

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