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HOA enforcement powers start with the Declaration,
by-laws and the CCRS (covenant, conditions & restrictions) that establish the powers to enforce many aspects of how the owners will live a good chunk of their lives under such regulatory conditions.
HOA can Indeed exert significant powers
Some people even think
that HOAs are actually part of the government …with less
scrutiny than any other branch.
I tend to agree, in some senses.
While many – and I venture to say, most – HOAs are run smoothly and are well-oiled organizations, there are still plenty of “bad actors” out there...
And those, my friend, make the enchilada spill all over.
HOA enforcement: Pettiness-a-plenty
Most of the time HOA enforcement will have its own comitees that are in the look out for “violations.”
You will be amazed how many people that can be found to volunteer their time – some times that is great for the neighborhood… however, very often these very same people, who seems benign, are the ones to stir things up.
I follow this subject over the media as much as I can. And I make notes of the cases I can document.
Here are just a few points of conflict over simple matters that I think could be resolved without blowing it over proportion:
4” taller fence – even if someone willingly would go over by a few inches, I just cannot see who the value of the subdivision could be affected;
Mail boxes – this is one of those that are in the top of my list of futility …but now and then I hear or read about people suing each other over mail boxes;
Color of exterior paint – much ado about noting: Who cares? Would that be worth starting a lawsuit?
Front yard grass color, along with other landscaping tastes, are very often source of many disputes;
Too many rose bushes planted in the front yard ;
Overweight dogs – just couldn’t they go on a diet …like the rest of us? LOL
I am quite sure you have your favorites to add to this list as well: All prime examples of how petty human beings can be at times…
What these people – on either side – have to gain or loose?
Nothing, absolutely nothing, my friend... except, maybe, bad blood among neighbors and create fodder for more bickering down the road.
AARP Owner's Bill Of Rights
The AARP has been promoting the passing of legislation to bring accountability to the HOA enforcement syndicate.
However it is still a “wild west” procedure out there: It puts too much “unregulated” powers in the hands of people with little or no other training or experience on “governing” and making decisions over such large group – some times the number of people in a a development can be to tune of hundreds – even thousands of souls.
Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars involved. Please see stats below.
On the other hand, there is little or no recourse for the homeowners who are the only reason of the existence of the association in the first place.
Surprise: HOAs receive remarkably high marks
All the while, despite all the bad publicity surrounding HOA enforcement of policies of perceived low practical value, homeowner’s satisfaction with HOAs seems to be remarkably high.
There has been at least three surveys conducted by Zogby and they are posted on the Community Association Institute (CAI) web site.
Respondents seem to be overwhelming favorably to the jobs HOAs are doing.
Here are the stats for the 2009 question: “Do you think the member of your elected governing board strive to serve the best interest of the community as whole?”
44% responded “absolutely” another 45% said “for the most part” – that brings us to 89% of the people surveyed.
4% were “not sure” and only 7% said “not at all.”
So overall 9 in 10 people living common interest communities are on the happy camp according to this survey…
What makes me think of a cartoon I saw many years ago. It pictured a patient visiting a doctor’s office and the doctor was saying:
"- Sir, 99% of people with your type of disease die from it. But not to worry you are the 100th case I am treating…"
Estimated number of U.S. association-governed communities and individual housing units and residents within those communities:
Year......#of Communities...#of Housing Units...#of Residents
1990.....130,000....................11.6 million...........29.6 million
2010.....309,600....................24.8 million...........62.0 million
According to CAI website, these are estimates based on U.S. Census publications, American Housing Survey (AHS), IRS Statistics of Income Reports, California and Florida state-specific information, related association industry trade groups and collaboration with industry professionals.
CAI also estimates that:
There are at least 310,000 community associations in the USA.
In 2010, association boards supervised the collection of more than $41.5 billion in annual assessments and maintained investment accounts of another $36-37 billion for the long-term maintenance and replacement of commonly held property.
That sounds like real money to me!
Are you opting “in” to be regulated?
My answer to that is a resounding, unequivocally, no mistake about it – YES!
People often do not realize it but in essence that is what happens the moment that you sign on the dotted line – you buy the house with an association, HOA enforcement is soon to follow.
It is called deed restrictions but we are not going to discuss the legal terms – only it consequences.
It is very common that buyers will fall in love with a particular home before ascertaining if they would be agreeable with all HOA’s terms.
All along I have been pointing that, in many instances the CCrs can be restrictive and that such restriction can affect your life style in more than one direction.
As I point in different pages of this site, most of the “restrictions” homebuyers face, already exist before the development does.
The developer must file most of the CCRs along his project – it is part of the process of creating a CID (common interest development) such as subdivision, town home complex, condominium or a co-op. It is a law requirement – it is not an after thought thing.
Upon approval, it will be recorded and before the developer breaks ground it already sets the framework for those who eventually will ultimately will live there.
Therefore who buys a property in a CID should watch closely what you are getting into.
Great number of the conflicts I see happening between homeowners and HOA enforcement come from reasons that people think of exerting their “full constitutional rights” without taking in consideration that have “forfeited” some of those same rights when they opted in via the CCRs.
When you buy a home in a common interest community (CIC) you are implicitly accepting to abide by the rules in place in the development.
I am sorry to say but, implicitly, the homeowner has entered into a contract and now he/she wants to break it.
Trying to change the rules afterwards is recipe for troubles and headaches.
You might have heard of homeowner suing their HOA because they want to place a 20ft freestanding flagpole to raise an American flag.
There has been a heated debate and a law suit because HOA thought it was not in sync with the CCRs. : -(
At the time of this writing it is still boiling over.
To learn more about this particular HOA enforcement please click here
Here are some comments you may read on the link above:
“The HOA doesn‘t say he can’t fly his flag, they in fact encourage residents to fly it. The conflict is about the twenty foot pole and the rule was in place when the Marine (God bless all marines) bought the property.”
“There’s lots of housing communities with weird rules, if you want to live there you have to abide by them (…)”
I should say - right in line with my thinking. Unfortunately people fall in love with properties and neglect to read what kind of regulation the CC&Rs have in store: HOA enforcement is just around the corner
Noisy neighbors? HOA enforcement may support you to get rid of them
As I write and speak often, and as the stats above tend to corroborate, that most people who live in CIDs do report good experiences and are satisfied with their decisions.
In a recent dinner with friends, one of the guests told that in the years she has lived in her condo, she has had two instances that she had to call the HOA because neighbors were making excess of noise too late in the evening and too often. In both occasion the neighbors were not cooperative in lowering the noise and the HOA enforcement was instrumental in forcing them out.
It was a very interesting fact that I had not heard before. I meant to ask her for details but the group’s conversation veered in a different direction and I couldn’t. I know that I will be meeting with this person again and I will make sure to ask and then I will post an update.
Payments owed to HOA must be made good even after selling a property
Lastly, there is one more “enduring” HOA enforcement that you gotta be aware of – specially in the home buying phase: payments owed the HOA must be made good – even after the owner has left the property and another owner comes in.
Please read this case in GA Court of Appeals involving foreclosures on condominium units and unpaid assessments:
“(New) Owner appealed trial court grant of directed verdict to Association, which sued owner for unpaid assessments of previous owner.
Owner claimed that he acquired title pursuant to an action in lieu of foreclosure and was thus not liable for any pre-sale assessments.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, "holding the owner and the previous owner jointly liable for all unpaid assessments prior to the sale.”
I have written an entry “ In defense of OHA” – on my page HOA Powers: I firmly believe that, when well-run, they preserve and enhance the property value and, in cases like condominium and co-ops, I just cannot conceive their existence without an HOA. To read more please click here
An HOA can make your staying in their community an enjoyable experience …or it can make you to repent of ever having a thought of purchasing that home.
So the more you educate yourself about your future home owners association the better you can hedge yourself against future headaches – here are additional “pages of knowledge” that might prove valuable down the road:
Now it is YOUR turn: Please give us your input!
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JC Fagundes, Associate Broker
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