A Richmond, Texas homeowner was recently cited by her local HOA, or homeowners association, for displaying strip club-themed skeletons in front of her house in a goofily raunchy sense of Halloween spirit.
The members of her local HOA were not amused.
After deciding that the homeowner’s burlesque skeleton display was an aesthetic affront to the family values ethics of the HOA local community rules, she was told to remove it.
The dispute gained local media attention. Perhaps in a face-saving decision, the HOA gave the homeowner 30 days to remove the skeleton display, which legally allowed the homeowner to keep the display up during Halloween anyway.
HOA Fees are No Laughing Matter
While somewhat amusing, such HOA infractions happen often. They can also result in drawn-out lawsuits and the potential for accused homeowners to be kicked out of their HOA, and ultimately, their own neighborhood.
Once you apply and are accepted into an HOA, you must follow HOA community rules, commonly called a Declaration of Covenants, to the letter or risk expulsion.
Moreover, all local HOA members must regularly pay non-refundable HOA fees.
Before discussing HOA fees, let’s first talk about HOAs in general.
Talk to the Loan Brothers at Mares Mortgage if you need the latest information on HOAs and HOA fees.
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What is an HOA?
A homeowners’ association, or an HOA, is a local community organization that comprises members of the local community. The HOA director, the board of directors, and other HOA members are all neighborhood members. They will be your neighbors.
An HOA creates and legally enforces rules relative to how its members take care of their homes and properties within the boundaries of the HOA’s neighborhood borders.
Depending on the HOA you join, there could be very restrictive rules stipulating what HOA members can and can’t do with their homes and properties.
You must be interviewed, vetted, and accepted to join an HOA community. Unless accepted, you cannot move into an HOA community, which is essentially a de facto gated community.
The types of rules that your HOA may enforce depends on the HOA that you join.
For example, your HOA may stipulate that your fence can only be painted a particular color. Or, it may limit the number of displays that you can put on your lawn during specific months of the year.
If you breach your HOA rules, you may receive a formal letter to mitigate the transgression. Or, you may receive a fine.
Unrelenting and spectacular neighborhood HOA feuds and rules transgressions are the stuff of local news entertainment.
HOA Rule Breakers
A Murfreesboro, Tennessee HOA member was cited by his HOA for posting a large football-themed sign on his front yard, a violation of local HOA rules. The homeowner decided to pay the undisclosed HOA fine instead of taking the sign down.
In Arizona, the members of an elite, upscale HOA community are embroiled in a 30-person web of lawsuits alleging petty defamation and infighting over HOA rules.
At the most extreme end of the HOA rules spectrum, you could be sued or legally forced to vacate your home and the neighborhood for breaking its rules. While this does happen, sometimes lawsuits, fines, and petty squabbles are drawn out until a conclusion is reached.
While being part of an HOA could be a bureaucratic and headache-inducing experience, what’s interesting is that HOA members pay regular HOA fees for the privilege.
HOA fees are a kind of annual or monthly dues that are collected from every HOA member.
HOA fees are used for a variety of purposes but are mainly used to maintain the aesthetic and cleanliness standards of the HOA community.
For example, HOA fees may be collected to help pay to clean communal parks, swimming pools. Or, HOA fees could be used to help pay for the construction of community projects, like a new tennis court.
The amount you pay in HOA fees depends on the HOA you join. There are no uniform HOA fee standards.
You could pay anywhere from $250 to $2,500 annually to satisfy your HOA fees.
That is a lot of money to pay, relatively speaking, for the privilege of being part of an HOA.
So, what are the pros and cons of being part of an HOA?
There are a few advantages to being a part of an HOA and paying its fees.
To help mitigate and quell neighbor feuds before they get out of hand, feuding neighbors can elect to mediate their issues with the local HOA board.
So, if you have issues relative to fence boundaries, barking dogs, or loud music with a neighbor, you can take it up with your HOA board and accept their decision.
If you join an HOA with a rigorous cleaning and maintenance process for the neighborhood, your property values will benefit.
Being part of an HOA usually grants you automatic membership in the community gym, swimming pool, and other perks.
Pay attention to the minutiae of your HOA contract agreement. It might be very restrictive relative to what you can and can’t do on your own property.
You may be only allowed to paint your house a color approved by the HOA. Or, you may only be allowed to have a certain kind or a certain number of pets in your household.
Furthermore, you may not be allowed to have pets if your HOA is located in an apartment building condominium.
If you are living check to check or on a set budget, paying for HOA fees could wreck your personal finances.
Even if you are not kicked out of your home for breaking HOA rules, legally fighting with your HOA can be a financially draining experience.
The biggest disadvantage of belonging to an HOA is that an HOA can assume an inordinate amount of control over your home, personal life, and finances.
What Do You Want Out of an HOA?
Joining an HOA is not a decision to undertake lightly. Why would you want to join one? What would you get out of it?
You may want to talk to people who are already members of an HOA.
Your best option may be to talk to professionals in the mortgage industry.
Contact the Loan Brothers at Mares Mortgage to learn all about HOAs and HOA fees.
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