If you’re moving for the first time into a community with a homeowner association, you must be wondering how much it’ll all cost you. What do HOA fees cover, are they negotiable, and how are they collected? Do you have to pay HOA fees even if you aren’t using the services it offers, and what happens if you don’t pay them? We’ll guide you through all the details, explain HOA rules thoroughly, and provide an insight into how a homeowner association functions.
Understanding a Homeowner Association
Homeowner associations are formed within communities, buildings, or neighborhoods where properties are owned by multiple parties. The aim of these organizations is to create and enforce rules regarding the properties within their jurisdiction regarding the cleanliness and the condition of the properties and their uniform appearance. What else is a homeowners association in charge of? An HOA can also be in charge of minor tasks such as seasonal lighting, snow removal, etc.
HOAs have the legal authority to require residents to abide by the terms of the contract they signed. If the property you bought was previously in an HOA, in most cases, you’ll automatically become a member of it. That’s why getting acquainted with the HOA’s rules should be a part of your due diligence when buying a home. Failing to abide by these rules can lead to penalties such as monetary fines, the restriction of some privileges, or even legal actions.
How Much Will It All Cost You?
Let’s shed some light on homeowners association fees. Depending on the neighborhood, the monthly or annual HOA fees members are required to pay usually range from $200 to $400 per month. In luxury neighborhoods, fees can go up to $10,000, while HOAs in less attractive areas can have lower-than-average fees of about $100 per month.
The prices vary depending on the city or area, too. According to a Trulia study from 2015, the lowest were in Warren, Mich ($218 per month) and the highest in New York City ($571). The same study established that older buildings entail a higher average fee due to more extensive maintenance requirements.
What Do Homeowner Association Fees Cover?
Before we get into detail, please note that this isn’t a definite list. Different HOAs offer different services to their members, so you should always check the rules of the particular HOA your (prospective) home belongs to. In this section, we’ll discuss the most common, basic services.
Communal Areas Maintenance
The homeowner association will usually cover the expenses of repairs in common areas, lawns, roads, and pavements maintenance, as well as snow removal. What else do HOA fees cover? It can be the maintenance of common areas, such as patios, lobbies, elevators, landscapes, and many other things.
Sometimes, HOAs cover certain communal utilities: trash removal, electricity for communal areas, water and sewer fees.
Residents of condominiums often struggle with cockroach infestations, and single-family houses sometimes have to deal with rats, termites, squirrels, or even rabbits that can seriously damage gardens. Having your HOA deal with pest control – especially roaches in buildings – is only logical because these insects spread from one unit to another, so getting rid of them has to be a joint effort if it’s to be successful.
Condos association fees won’t cover the insurance costs for your humble abode but only for the communal areas and the exterior of the building. In case, for example, your condominium and/or the surrounding property is damaged in a natural disaster, you can lean on your HOA. But make sure to purchase homeowner’s insurance to protect your home.
We’ve listed some essential services covered by HOA fees. However, those who reside in more luxurious properties might get additional perks included in the (higher) price, such as security services or access to spas, gyms, tennis courts, swimming pools, community clubhouses.
Do You Have To Join an HOA?
After learning the answer to the question “What are HOA fees?” your next question is likely whether HOA membership is mandatory. With more than 350,000 homeowner associations in the US running about 53% of all properties, future homeowners don’t have much choice unless they’re lucky enough to find a home within the jurisdiction of a voluntary HOA.
If you reside in a community with a voluntary HOA, you don’t have to sign up for its services. By refusing the HOA payment, you probably won’t have (free) access to communal facilities or community clubs reserved for members only. On the bright side, apart from not having to pay the steep fees, you won’t have to abide by the rules imposed by the association.
If typing “What do HOA fees cover” into the search box is what landed you here, it’s more likely than not that your real estate is in an area with a mandatory HOA. That means you will have to pay a monthly fee and abide by its rules. The good side of the situation is that you won’t have to deal with maintenance and bureaucracy yourself. However, painting your house in loud colors, keeping a zoo at home, or renting your apartment to just anyone without going through a thorough tenant screening process first probably won’t be an option.
Breaking HOA Rules
An average HOA fee is a major budget item for most families, so many people are tempted to just skip their payments. A word of caution if you’re thinking about dodging the fees and/or rules of your HOA: Penalties against rule-breakers can be harsh and might lead to legal action against the homeowner or even foreclosures of the property.
To avoid all that unnecessary trouble, take enough time to study the rules of your future home’s HOA. According to real estate statistics, home buyers spend 10 weeks on average searching for a new home, so there’s plenty of time to examine all the possible sanctions and restrictions a HOA might impose.