Q: It is my opinion, we the homeowners have no rights in being run by a board of directors, a management company as well as the law. Sounds to me like communism where some comrades dictate based on their laws how what is managed which way. The law provides them immunity and the homeowner has to pay for their mistake. On top of that, there is no accountability or responsibility for their actions. The homeowner pays, pays, and pays but got no say so unless the owners have a majority to vote them out and then the management company still runs the show. — Yuk, J.K., Anaheim
A: HOAs aren’t for everybody. The most important fact to remember is that in HOAs one trades pure independence for the gain of shared benefits which might not otherwise be achievable to an individual homeowner. If one wants absolute independence and individual control, common interest communities are not a great fit.
Unfortunately, too many homeowners fail to recognize the trade-offs. They want the use of the swimming pool (but they don’t want to be assessed for it), the enforcement of rules against unruly neighbors (but not against themselves), and protection from community eyesores (so long as they can do what they want to their home).
HOAs offer the convenience of shared services and amenities that are helpful to seniors and people starting their careers who may not have time to handle all the responsibilities of individual home ownership. HOAs also are more achievable for first-time homebuyers, due to the higher density of condominium associations making property ownership more affordable.
Some people like the fact that they don’t have to worry about landscaping, fencing, roofs, and the like, and that a group of elected volunteers (the board) is handling things for everyone, aided by a professional manager.
Another HOA benefit is architectural conformity and maintenance standards, preserving a neighborhood’s attractive appearance and making it more desirable. My neighborhood is quite old, with no design restrictions or other controls. Consequently homes sometimes are left completely unmaintained with high weeds in the front yard and the neighborhood’s original architectural consistency erodes each year with each new remodel that looks nothing like the homes around them.
HOAs must have boards to run them – the whole community cannot be expected to vote on every contract or maintenance decision. Although an HOA poorly run by volunteers who don’t understand their role as servants (not bosses) to their communities can make all HOAs look bad, don’t assume all HOA are bad just because your HOA may not currently be doing a good job.
HOAs are not communist but are neighbors who by buying into the HOA band together for their common benefit. For those who cannot accept sharing with others and who need personal control, HOAs may not be the right home location. So, read the purchase documents carefully BEFORE closing escrow to confirm whether the home is in a homeowner association community.
Common interest communities play a critically important role in the housing sector and are vitally necessary for many homeowners. I occasionally read statements that HOAs should be “outlawed.” Sorry, but that is ridiculous. Instead of reviling HOAs, consider making them better. Consider exploring resources available for homeowner leaders, such as www.caionline.org.
Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and Partner of Richardson Ober LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit column questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.