You plan to buy a home in a Pennsylvania development that is governed by a homeowner association (HOA). If you’ve never lived in an HOA community, there are some things you need to know.
In the United States, about 73.5 million people live in communities that have a homeowner association, according to the Community Associations Institute. Condominium and townhouse developments commonly have homeowner associations, but some single-family neighborhoods do, as well. The association enforces the rules designed to keep the community clean, safe and appealing for residents.
An HOA consists of a board of residents who oversee the community. When you move into the area, you’ll be required to pay a monthly maintenance fee that likely will cover things such as lawn mowing and snow plowing, exterior building maintenance, property insurance and community-wide benefits, such as swimming pools and playgrounds.
The board leads by following the community’s bylaws as well as what is known as the CC&Rs – covenants, conditions and restrictions. Before you sign a contract to purchase the home, you’ll want to ask for a copy of both and review them.
The CC&Rs tell you what you can and can’t do with your property. They lay rules down about such things as how many cars you can park in your driveway, whether you can store your boat, the acceptable types of storm doors, the varieties of shrubs you can plant, and the permitted colors to paint your front door or shutters. Sometimes, the rules go beyond “blue” and give you the exact manufacturer and color code of the paint you may use. When you review the CC&Rs, you might find the rules are more restrictive that you want.
The rules, too, sometimes are subject to interpretation, and you could wind up in a dispute with the homeowners association. An HOA can apply hefty fines or other measures, and these cases sometimes wind up in court. Before you buy the home, you must weigh whether you can live with those rules – and the potential penalties for breaking them – before finalizing the purchase.