Courtesy of FOX NEWS
By Robert Massi
July 5, 2015
Private property is understood to be the foundation of
prosperity and personal freedoms. But would you believe me if I told you there
are places in America where privately owned property is subject to laws outside
those of cities and states? Or that property owners can be deprived of
fundamental rights by a non-governmental entity?
|Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are
the governing bodies of housing developments or complexes.
They may exist in single-family housing developments and
condo or townhouse complexes. Their stated purpose is to
help maintain good relations among neighbors, keep property
values stable and provide a mechanism for democratic
decisions about expenditures for repairs and amenities like
tennis courts, swimming pools and golf courses.
One in five homeowners will become part of an HOA when they
purchase their home, and in most cases the benefits are worth any hassles. But
HOAs can make decisions that have a negative impact on your enjoyment of your
And, unfortunately, many people who choose to do battle with these powerful but
often inexperienced or uneducated boards lose more than a good night’s sleep.
They can lose their homes.
If you are thinking of buying a home governed by an HOA, here’s how to enter
into the relationship with your eyes wide open:
Their development, their rules. You may be buying a house, but you are also
becoming a member of the HOA. This is not optional. You will pay membership dues
and be subject to all of its rules regarding your conduct outside your home but
inside its gates.
But if the rules are meant to protect my property value, how bad can they be?
HOA rules, called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CCR), can govern
everything from appearance to behavior. Read them carefully to know how much of
your life the HOA can control. Common rules may include what color you may paint
your house, what kind of landscaping you install, how much noise you make, how
many cars you can park or whether you can have a pet.
Violations of the rules carry consequences – sometimes serious consequences.
Because most HOAs are corporations, their sanctions are legally enforceable. If
you break a rule, you can be fined. If you refuse to pay your fines, the HOA can
seize your property. I am not exaggerating when I say I’ve seen cases where
homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were forced into foreclosure to
settle hundreds of dollars in HOA fines or unpaid association dues. In fact,
Nevada is one of about 20 states that allow HOA liens to get priority over first
Is there any way to live happily ever after with an HOA? “Ever after” is a long
time, so no promises. But if your dream house is part of an HOA, make sure to
talk to other homeowners about their experiences, meet with the board of the HOA
and determine whether there are plans for construction, installations or other
changes that might affect the immediate area around your home. Be sure you love
the house “as is” – in case you can’t make changes. And consider whether your
lifestyle fits in with that of the neighborhood. Build the HOA dues into the
overall cost of your monthly payments and be organized enough to pay fines
promptly if you violate a rule. And remember: Rules are rules. When you bought
your home, you agreed to play by those set by your HOA.