Do Homeowner Associations Wield Too Much Power?

“Don’t be that guy.” That is the self-educating mantra I tell myself to keep myself from doing things that I find abhorrent in others. Sometimes the most important thing in life to learn isn’t learning what to do, but what not to do. An important part of maturity is learning to distinguish between the two.

Maybe I am being confusing. Let me start over. I am developing an intense dislike for one of my neighbors. This guy leaves Christmas decorations standing or draped on his house until March. He left a rusting 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 in his garage driveway for months, half-heartedly attempting to restore it every few weeks.

When you own a home, you can do what you want with it. Sometimes I forget to cut the grass as regularly as I should. I do, however, try to paint the exterior bi-annually. I don’t leave rusting vehicles in the driveway. How you take care of your home, its interior condition and exterior aesthetics dictate its value. And, the value of adjacent homes.

Decreasing Home Values

Many factors can decrease a home’s value, and many of them are involuntary. If there is an economic depression or recession, then buyers are few, and the values of homes can drop. Physical decay, neglect, and sloppy maintenance can drive down home value.

Or, physical maintenance neglect by nearby neighbors and/or businesses can drive down the value of adjacent homes. Some people try to protect their home’s value, and the right to enforce aesthetic maintenance rules on neighbors, by joining homeowner associations.

What is an HOA?

A homeowner’s association, or HOA, is an organization that enforces rules and codes concerning property value protection, neighborhood aesthetics, and neighborly etiquette in a neighborhood, suburban community, or condominium. If the neighborhood that you wish to move into has an HOA, you must become a member to live there.

The HOA board of directors feature members who live in the neighborhood. They develop restrictive rules and codes that must be followed by everyone in the jurisdiction of the community. Failure to follow these rules can result in fines, lawsuits, liens against property, or even removal from the neighborhood. When you join an HOA, you must aesthetically maintain your home and property according to the standards of the HOA, not your own.

Your Home, HOA Rules

The HOA guidelines that you must follow vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. For instance, you may not be able to install solar panels on your roof if neighbors can see them from the street. An HOA in Sacramento, California required all members to leave their garage doors open during daylight hours. There were rumors of people illegally living in garages in the neighborhood.

An HOA in Missouri threatened a homeowner with lawsuits and arrest because a purple-colored children’s swing set in their yard ran afoul of the rules. While every HOA doesn’t have such restrictive rules, your ability to stay in the neighborhood hassle-free depends on you following them.

HOA Fees

As a member of an HOA, you’ll be required to pay monthly dues. They are usually collected to pay for maintenance and cleanup of the neighborhood, parks, and common areas in HOA jurisdictions. How much you pay in dues depends on the exclusiveness of the neighborhood. The more upscale and exclusive it is, then the more you’ll pay.

An HOA monthly fee can cost as little as $100, but the national average is $330. HOA monthly fees can cost as much as $10,000 in wealthy neighborhoods. So, if you are willing to give up a lot of control in the maintenance of your home for property value protection, then an HOA membership might be for you. As for myself, I am content not to be that guy.

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