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What Homeowners Need to Know About HOAs

Many residential communities rely on Homeowners’ Associations to oversee neighborhood maintenance, manage common amenities, and provide a sense of order. When you move into a planned community or live in a townhouse or condominium, you can often expect to become a member of the HOA. But what does that mean for you? That’s covered in this overview of what homeowners need to know about HOAs.

What is a homeowners association?

A homeowners’ association, informally known as an HOA, is an organization that sets and enforces rules, regulations, and responsibilities for a given neighborhood. It’s estimated that approximately 25-27 percent of the U.S. population lives in private communities governed by condominium, cooperative, and housing associations.

Typically, membership is required when you purchase a property in an HOA-managed community. You’ll also be required to pay regular dues, which the HOA uses to cover the maintenance and operation of common areas, such as parks and swimming pools.

HOAs are more common when you have several people living in close proximity to each other, says Peter T. Harakas, Saussy Burbank’s VP Development and Land Acquisitions. “Your home is your castle, but you have to be considerate of your neighbors.”

#1 HOAs live by their CC&Rs

Before moving into a HOA-maintained community, you may want to familiarize yourself with their Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The CC&Rs dictate what you can and cannot do with your property. These rules can cover everything from the color of your house to the types of pets you can own. They can also regulate how loud you can play CCR and how late.

The CC&Rs typically include standard rules and regulations, with the state providing an outline of what needs covered. Often the HOA is incorporated by the home developer. Then, once construction is complete and the homes are occupied, the neighbors elect their own board of directors and officers (selected from member residents) to run that HOA.

HOA CC&Rs often set rules regarding things such as:

  • Siding and roof materials, colors
  • Renting out your property
  • Where you can put a fence and how high it can be
  • Parking (e.g., for visitors, RVs, trailers)
  • Expectations regarding yard work, decorations

#2 HOA fees vary

It’s important to understand the costs associated with your HOA. They can vary dramatically across communities. That matters, because as Harakas notes, “You don’t get to choose whether you abide by the HOA and pay dues. By virtue of buying that land you agree.”

With a new construction home, like Saussy Burbank’s townhome communities, you know that the neighborhood’s public amenities are all new and typically covered by warranty at the outset. Yet, if you’re moving into an existing townhome or condo that has been there several years, you’ll want to understand the financial position of that HOA.

Find out the condition of the shared property and the financial status of the HOA. “Most should have reserves accumulated,” Harakas says, adding you also want to see that the HOA has been taking ongoing care of maintenance issues. “There’s all sorts of things that can go bad,” he says. If they’ve just been postponing replacements of roofs or rotten wood on the home exteriors, you could get asked for more money down the road.

Other important considerations include:

  • How much of the amount you are contributing each month is going to the reserves?
  • Is it a public or private street in front of your unit? If it’s private, the HOA is responsible for maintenance.
  • What does the HOA fee cover?
  • How often have the HOA fees increased and by how much?

In 2023, Today’s Homeowner reported 1.1 million homes in North Carolina had HOAs paying a total of $5.2 billion at an average monthly rate of $385. South Carolina’s 556,000 homes in HOAs paid $390 per month on average for a total of $2.6 billion.

#3 You still need home insurance

Often a HOA will have an insurance policy for common areas paid out of the member dues. However, this will not cover your belongings or any additions you might make to the interior. For example, if you add fabric panels or a chandelier, those are specific to your home insurance policy. The HOA’s insurance generally covers the exterior shell of the building to the drywall, but nothing inside the walls, Harakas says.

#4 Residents rule the HOA

HOAs are typically governed by a board of directors elected by homeowners. By attending the regular meetings held to discuss community matters, and participating in elections, you can have more direct influence on important issues.

#5 HOAs have enforcement authority

The HOA can be perceived as the “neighborhood police.” That’s because the association has the authority to enforce the CC&Rs. If you violate any rules, you may face fines or other penalties. Find out the extent of their authority. Some HOAs actually have the power to place a lien on your home or can foreclose on your property for failure to pay dues or fines for violating the CC&Rs.

#6 You may need HOA approval

You can avoid running afoul of your HOA by ensuring you are familiar with the CC&Rs. Often, for example, you will be asked to submit your plans for any changes to your exterior to the HOA or its architectural review committee. You may need to do so in advance if you want to add a fence, change a paint color, or landscape your lawn differently.

Learn more about HOAs with Saussy Burbank

HOAs aim to ensure community wellbeing. The rules are intended to keep the peace and protect your neighborhood. You may also benefit from amenities such as clubhouses, pools, and parks with a HOA. Find out whether there’s a homeowners’ association at your home of choice in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, or Charlotte when you speak with one of Saussy Burbank’s friendly, helpful sales agents.

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