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What is an HOA?

Community LivingAn HOA, or Homeowners Association, is when a common interest community – which includes mainly condos, but could include some some single family or water -front properties – provides ground rules for maintaining their common spaces and property. With these rules comes a monthly or annual fee for expenses to take care of these areas and buildings. HOA’s can also have legal power over properties. If a homeowner falls behind on dues, the HOA can place a lien on the property.

HOA fees in a typical condo in MA range from about $200-$400 a month; if the building is more upscale and has more amenities, the fees will be higher.

House keySince multiple parties live in the same area, all residents are equally responsible for maintaining the common areas. Some homeowner’s associations are very strict, and have certain rules that must be followed. These rules can include what color you can paint your house, how tall your fence can be, or if pets are permitted. Homeowner associations are also allowed to determine whether or not you’re allowed to rent out your property.  Other homeowner associations are more relaxed and just want to keep property values up by maintaining the property year round.

There are both advantages and disadvantages that come with buying a property with HOA fees.  Homeowners association fees help maintain the quality of life and consistency for the community. They can help you out by preventing your next door neighbor from painting their house lime green, but also hurt you when you’re expected to help pay for expensive maintenance on your home that you may not find necessary.

Advantages of HOA’s

2HOA rules avoid conflict amongst neighbors, such as trash piling up, or poor maintenance of gardens and roads. By having these rules and keeping everything consistent, they can give you access to shared amenities; such as gardens, pools, golf courses, and recreation centers. HOA’s can also provide you with a strong voice in a community.  HOA fees generally cover trash removal, snow plowing, landscaping of outdoor common areas, cleaning of indoor common areas, and some utilities.  Having these tasks covered is a relief to some owners who do not have the time or desire to execute them on their own.

Disadvantages of HOA’s

hoa-3When buying a home in a HOA community, you may need to be approved by the HOA’s board before making any changes to your home. The board has the authority to disapprove certain additions and improvements to your home. It can be hard to sell your property if a large percentage of owners are delinquent paying their HOA fees.  As well, it can be impossible for a potential buyer to obtain a mortgage if a low percentage of the units are owner occupied.

What If I Don’t Like the Rules in Place?

5Even if you do not agree with the rules that are put in place, you must still pay your fees. You can handle many problems with a phone call or a written request using a HOA form in your CC&R (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) documents. If the board rules against you, you may appeal the ruling with a petition signed by the majority of other homeowners.

What Happens If I Don’t Pay The HOA Fees?

fileHomeowners associations have legal power over property owners. They can collect fines and fees and can place a lien on a property if a homeowner falls behind on dues. They may also impose penalties and fines to homeowners who go against the rules.

Questions to Ask Before Moving to a Location with HOA Fee’s:

  • How are HOA fee increases set?
  • How often do they increase?
  • What do the monthly fees cover?
  • How large is the HOA’s reserve fund?
  • What were the special assessments that have been made in the past?
  • Are there any pending special assessments or lawsuits?
  • What is the percentage of delinquent HOA fees?
  • Request a HOA balance sheet before buying.

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