A Homeowner’s Association, or HOA, is an organization created by a group of property owners, or property developers which helps to oversee any shared property belonging to the homeowner group, and which usually has a legal means of reinforcing any agreed upon rules the homeowners must follow.

A lot of new single residence communities establish an HOA as properties first begin to sell, and they’re also very common in things like condominium or townhouse complexes.

Lots of times when housing developments are built, they include some shared property that any person owning a home can use. Things like swimming pools, gyms or small parks are going to require maintenance. Here the HOA can step in to define use and restrictions on these, and they can collect dues from property owners to pay for maintenance.

People may also wish to live in communities where they can be assured of routine maintenance of common areas or even of building exteriors. Again, dues collected may pay for these things. Homeowners may desire communities where the look of properties in the area remains similar. They can empower the HOA to restrict types of construction that can occur, or even regulate the degree to which each resident must maintain their own property.

A person who owns property in the HOA cannot avoid being part of it and must agree to pay dues and abide by any rules set by the association. Attending meetings isn’t necessarily obligatory, but many residents are vitally interested in this if they hope to change any bylaws or to protest any proposed changes to rules. The boards of the HOA are usually made up of homeowners in the specific community, and each association may make rules about term limitations. This means for most HOAs, people will periodically need to vote for new board members and could participate in the board too.

One of the methods HOAs use to enforce rules is by levying fines against those who do not follow them. Failure to correct behavior or activities considered illegal and to pay fines may result in legal action that forces residents to move out and sell their homes. Refusing to pay dues also can result in legal action.

A homeowner’s association can be really non-intrusive and collect small amounts of dues. Others can demand over several hundred US Dollars (USD) per month and have rules that owners feel are unduly restrictive. It helps to investigate an HOA prior to purchasing property within one. Perspective buyers should look at all rules they’ll need to follow and may want to research if there are any current legal complaints against the association. Buyers also need to budget for the extra money they’ll pay in dues, and determine whether these fees have a habit of rising regularly.

People renting property may wonder what their obligations are if the property is part of an HOA. This really depends. Technically the property’s owner is the member of the association, but he may or may not ask the renter to pay the dues. At minimum, renters need to be sure they are following any rules for property use and appearance so that they don’t incur fees for their landlords.