Are Homeowners' Associations Good or Bad?

Planned residential communities and common interest communities have become prevalent in Virginia over the past decades. These communities are self-governed by associations of homeowners that have the authority to adopt and enforce rules and regulations that govern each owner’s property, including rules pertaining to maintenance, repairs, appearance, yards/flora, and other external uses. The association may also levy fines for violations, and charge assessments to the homeowners for common maintenance and daily operation. The powers and limitations of property owners’ associations is governed by Title 55, Chapter 26 of the Virginia Code

As membership in the community association is mandatory for homeowners who purchase property in planned residential communities, it is important for a first-time purchaser to weigh the pros and cons of planned communities, and whether it’s right for them.

BENEFITS TO MEMBERSHIP

1. Aesthetics. Homes governed by a homeowners’ association (HOA) are obligated to comply with the standards that are set by the association regarding appearance, such as external paint and lawn maintenance. Failure of a home to meet the standards most often results in the assessment of a fine against the owner, which is a sufficient incentive to keep the property looking great.2. Recreational Facilities. Many HOAs offer common facilities, such as pools, community rooms, tennis courts, etc. These facilities are available to residents only, and can be enjoyed by the whole family.

3. Management/Enforcement. The association management is largely tasked to maintain the common grounds and enforce regulations, but may also act as an intermediary between aggrieved homeowners. An owner who is struggling with his neighbor’s loud pets or parties may enlist help from the management team to resolve the dispute without having to directly face the neighbor.

4. Safety. Planned residential communities may often provide emergency services and maintain lighting on neighborhood streets and in common areas to increase safety; make certain regulations as to street parking, etc. The more affluent gated communities often employ security guards to control access at the community entrance.

NEGATIVE ASPECTS TO MEMBERSHIP

1. Restrictions. Aesthetic restrictions vary by HOA, and are not limited to exterior paint colors and landscaping choices. HOAs can dictate which types of holiday decorations are appropriate; place restrictions on pet ownership; and prohibit a homeowner from hosting a cook-out in his front yard.

2. Cost. The monthly membership cost can range from a nominal fee to several thousand dollars, dependent on the services offered. Homeowners who do not utilize the recreational facilities available must still pay for maintenance of the facility as part of their HOA fees. In Addition to monthly fees, HOAs can issue fines for noncompliance, and periodically levy assessments on owners to pay for improvements.

3. Restrictions. Did we say restrictions? HOAs may even restrict homeowners from renting out their dwelling! Having trouble selling, but need more space? The unrestricted homeowner would consider leasing the house or building an addition, whereas, the homeowner in a planned community could be precluded from both options.

If you’re thinking about buying a house in a planned community, but you’re not sure if it’s right for you, the first thing you need to do is READ THE RULES. The HOA should make the rules and governing documents readily available for homeowners and prospective home buyers.

Fairfax Real Estate Lawyer: If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia real estate law attorney or Virginia property lawyer, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office.

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