Courtesy of US News
By Teresa Mears
May 7, 2015
If you buy a condominium, townhouse or single-family home in
a newer development, you’re likely to become a member of a community
About 20 percent of Americans live in a community governed by a condo
association, homeowners association or co-op board, according to the Community
Associations Institute, which educates volunteer board members and association
management professionals. The number of communities covered by associations has
grown from about 10,000 in 1970 to more than 333,000 today.
Community associations come with rules that determine everything from the number
of pets you can own to what color you can paint your front door. Some include
amenities such as pools, clubhouses and golf courses, while others provide
services such as road maintenance and streetlights.
|The associations are set up by developers
and then turned over to a volunteer board of homeowners once all
the units in the development are sold. Those volunteers are
responsible for making sure facilities are maintained,
collecting maintenance dues and enforcing the rules.
“This is the ultimate form of democracy,” says Frank Rathbun,
vice president of communications for the CAI.
While stories of homeowners associations that deny permission
for kids with cancer to build a playhouse or veterans to fly a
flag on the wrong kind of pole may steal the headlines, CAI
statistics show that 64 percent of residents are satisfied with
their community association experience and 26 percent are
neutral, with only 10 percent dissatisfied, according to a 2014
Experts suggest volunteering to help the community or even serving on
your HOA board.
But the same survey shows that almost a quarter of residents have experienced a
significant disagreement with their association, with landscaping and parking
being the two most common causes, followed by finances and architectural issues.
Whether you like or hate the rules that come with community association life,
once you’ve bought or rented in an association, you’ve signed on. Being a member
of an association ties your fate to your neighbors’ in ways that living in a
traditional subdivision does not.
“You have to overcome that ‘my home is my castle’ issue,” Rathbun says.
Rules are designed to protect property values, and 70 percent of the respondents
in the CAI survey believe they do, while 26 percent believe they make no
difference. Disagreements over which rules are required to protect property
values often leads to conflicts that can cost residents both time and money if
they’re handled poorly.
“People ought to know that being in a condo is a give-and-take kind of thing,”
says Patrick Hohman, author of “Condos Townhomes and Home Owner Associations:
How to Make Your Investment Safer” and a longtime volunteer board member who is
now a part-time, on-site manager at a condominium near Louisville, Kentucky. He
also runs an educational website called www.CondoHOAinfo.com.
“It’s a nonstop process of building trust and maintaining trust,” Hohman says.
“You learn to be forgiving of others and forgiving of yourself. You deal with
people where they are and as they are. It’s kind of like dealing with your
extended family at Thanksgiving.”
One challenge for associations is that volunteer board members with no property
management experience are charged with maintaining hundreds of thousands of
dollars' worth of property. About two-thirds of associations hire professional
managers, but the rest are managed by the residents themselves.
“Board members are almost never trained in property management,” says Richard
Thompson, who publishes The Regenesis Report, a weekly newsletter for board
members and developers. He also writes a syndicated column for Realty Times and
just published the book “Trade HOA Stress for Success.” He recommends
professional management – hiring trained and experienced property managers to
oversee operations – for most associations. “If the board hires competent
people, they’re going to stay ahead of the curve and not put fires out,” he
Communities are dependent upon the skills and personalities that residents and
board members bring to the table. Some people are better than others at working
with their neighbors, and residents with poor people skills can create problems
for everyone, especially if they get on the board.
Experts say that communications and transparency – being very clear about where
the money goes, welcoming residents and board meetings and sharing information
about how decisions are made – go a long way toward building community harmony.
“There is no substitution for communication between the association and the
residents,” Rathbun says.
Here are seven tips getting along in a homeowners association.
Know the rules before you move in. Too few prospective residents understand the
rules before they buy or rent. It’s particularly important to be able to live
with policies on pets, parking, collection, rentals, noise and architectural
guidelines. “Folks buy into a homeowner association without any clue of what
they’re obligated to do,” Thompson says. “Few prospective buyers research these
things before they close the deal.”
Follow proper procedures. Boards should set up clear procedures for everything
from getting permission to paint your front door to rental applications to
installing a satellite dish, and homeowners should expect to follow those
Go to your neighbor before you go to the board. The board is there to make sure
the rules and regulations of the development are followed, but if your
neighbor’s loud music annoys you, talk to your neighbor first before taking your
complaint to the HOA board.
If you don’t like a rule, get your neighbors together to change it. Changing
circumstances may make some rules outmoded, and boards should review the rules
every few years to make sure they’re all serving the community. If you don’t
like a rule, talk to your neighbors and petition the board collectively for a
Volunteer to help your community. It’s not always evident from the outside
exactly what work the board of directors is doing and what issues the community
faces. Once you move in, volunteer to help with a project or serve on a
committee, and expect to serve on the board at some point. “Get involved. Don’t
wait until you’re dissatisfied about something,” Rathbun says.
Try to stay out of court. Every community has a few people who think the rules
don’t apply to them, and some would rather fight than comply. A court battle can
be costly, both in money and in emotional turmoil within the community. “Win,
lose or draw, we are still talking about neighbors who have this bigger wall
between them,” Thompson says. Adds Rathbun: “Be reasonable: That applies to both
the homeowners and the volunteer homeowners who serve on the board.”
Have a long-range plan. State laws regarding reserves and planning vary, but it
always makes sense to plan for items you know will have to be replaced or
repaired, such as roads, roofs and pools. If the community has no reserves and
no plan, a roof leak at a condominium complex could mean a surprise assessment
of thousands of dollars for each homeowner. “If the board had been collecting
money and planning for this … every member along the timeline would have been
paying some portion,” Thompson says.
In short: CAI (Community Association Institute) propaganda,
using a skewered survey. They make it all sound easy -- and living in a
community association is definitely anything but easy. They use again the
propaganda of HOAs are protecting property values -- definitely a fairy tale,
but sadly often blindly believed by homeowners.
“This is the ultimate form of democracy,” says Frank
Rathbun, vice president of communications for the CAI.
If that's the ultimate form of democracy I would rather
live in a dictatorship!!!!