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Joining an HOA? Here’s What You Need to Know

Updated: July 2018

When you purchase a condo, townhouse or home, you may be required to join a homeowners association (HOA). According to the Community Association Institute, more than 21 percent of the U.S. population live in neighborhoods with these organizations.

Generally, the group is responsible for maintaining the quality and value of properties in a community, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). But for first-time homeowners, dealing with an HOA may be confusing. Here are some tips to help newcomers navigate their relationship with the organization.

Row of suburban townhouses on summer day.

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Understand the Basics

Familiarize yourself with an HOA’s governing documents so you know what you can and can’t do. HOAs typically have the following, according to HGTV:

  • Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs): These are the rules outlined by the HOA. CC&Rs can cover everything from the colors you can paint your house to the improvements and alterations you can make to what kind of curtains you can hang, according to Realtor.com.
  • Contracts: Homeowners are usually asked to sign a contract saying they will follow these rules when they move in. It is a legally binding document filed with the state, according to U.S. News and World Report. If you fail to follow the rules, the HOA may fine you. Unpaid fines can result in a lien on your house and may even lead to foreclosure.
  • Homeowners association bylaws: This document includes the details of how an HOA should operate, according to HGTV. It typically outlines how board members are elected, how often fees can be charged and how you can try to change rules that you disagree with, according to Realtor.com. HOA members must vote to make changes to this document, according to U.S. News and World Report.

When you purchase a condo, townhouse or home, you may be required to join a homeowners association (HOA). According to the Community Association Institute, more than 21 percent of the U.S. population live in neighborhoods with these organizations.

Generally, the group is responsible for maintaining the quality and value of properties in a community, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). But for first-time homeowners, dealing with an HOA may be confusing. Here are some tips to help newcomers navigate their relationship with the organization.

Understand the Basics

Familiarize yourself with an HOA’s governing documents so you know what you can and can’t do. HOAs typically have the following, according to HGTV:

  • Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs): These are the rules outlined by the HOA. CC&Rs can cover everything from the colors you can paint your house to the improvements and alterations you can make to what kind of curtains you can hang, according to Realtor.com.
  • Contracts: Homeowners are usually asked to sign a contract saying they will follow these rules when they move in. It is a legally binding document filed with the state, according to U.S. News and World Report. If you fail to follow the rules, the HOA may fine you. Unpaid fines can result in a lien on your house and may even lead to foreclosure.
  • Homeowners association bylaws: This document includes the details of how an HOA should operate, according to HGTV. It typically outlines how board members are elected, how often fees can be charged and how you can try to change rules that you disagree with, according to Realtor.com. HOA members must vote to make changes to this document, according to U.S. News and World Report.

HGTV recommends reviewing these documents before purchasing a house in an HOA community.

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