What is an HOA?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A Homeowner's Association, or HOA, is an organization created by a group of property owners, or property developers which helps to oversee any shared property belonging to the homeowner group, and which usually has a legal means of reinforcing any agreed upon rules the homeowners must follow. A lot of new single residence communities establish an HOA as properties first begin to sell, and they’re also very common in things like condominium or townhouse complexes.

HOA's use maintenance fees to maintain swimming pools, parks and community areas.
HOA's use maintenance fees to maintain swimming pools, parks and community areas.

Lots of times when housing developments are built, they include some shared property that any person owning a home can use. Things like swimming pools, gyms or small parks are going to require maintenance. Here the HOA can step in to define use and restrictions on these, and they can collect dues from property owners to pay for maintenance.

Townhouses and condominiums often have homeowner associations.
Townhouses and condominiums often have homeowner associations.

People may also wish to live in communities where they can be assured of routine maintenance of common areas or even of building exteriors. Again, dues collected may pay for these things. Homeowners may desire communities where the look of properties in the area remains similar. They can empower the HOA to restrict types of construction that can occur, or even regulate the degree to which each resident must maintain their own property.

Subdivisions may have their own Homeowner's Association.
Subdivisions may have their own Homeowner's Association.

A person who owns property in the HOA cannot avoid being part of it and must agree to pay dues and abide by any rules set by the association. Attending meetings isn’t necessarily obligatory, but many residents are vitally interested in this if they hope to change any bylaws or to protest any proposed changes to rules. The boards of the HOA are usually made up of homeowners in the specific community, and each association may make rules about term limitations. This means for most HOAs, people will periodically need to vote for new board members and could participate in the board too.

Some HOAs require that all homes have a similar look.
Some HOAs require that all homes have a similar look.

One of the methods HOAs use to enforce rules is by levying fines against those who do not follow them. Failure to correct behavior or activities considered illegal and to pay fines may result in legal action that forces residents to move out and sell their homes. Refusing to pay dues also can result in legal action.

A homeowner’s association can be really non-intrusive and collect small amounts of dues. Others can demand over several hundred US Dollars (USD) per month and have rules that owners feel are unduly restrictive. It helps to investigate an HOA prior to purchasing property within one. Perspective buyers should look at all rules they’ll need to follow and may want to research if there are any current legal complaints against the association. Buyers also need to budget for the extra money they’ll pay in dues, and determine whether these fees have a habit of rising regularly.

People renting property may wonder what their obligations are if the property is part of an HOA. This really depends. Technically the property’s owner is the member of the association, but he may or may not ask the renter to pay the dues. At minimum, renters need to be sure they are following any rules for property use and appearance so that they don’t incur fees for their landlords.

Homeowners' associations often oversee repair work as it becomes necessary.
Homeowners' associations often oversee repair work as it becomes necessary.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I have a relative who was the president of an HOA for a few years and she couldn't wait to be replaced. I don't know if all HOAs work this way, but in her subdivision, individual homeowners owned the house itself, but not the land beneath it. Part of the HOA fees were designated for ground maintenance of any kind, from mowing yards to cutting down trees. This wasn't necessarily a deal breaker, since a lot of people would rather not be responsible for mowing their own yards every two weeks. However, the designated grass inspectors often used that opportunity to notice other potential violations. My relative would get dozens of reports each month about possible rule violations, and most of them would fall under the category of petty non-issues.

Some HOAs also find ways to tack on more fees for services or amenities that a lot of members couldn't or wouldn't use. People who couldn't swim would still be responsible for pool maintenance costs. HOA boards wouldn't necessarily find the most qualified service people, just the ones willing to work for their wages. Sometimes, legitimate repair requests for leaks or air conditioning problems or electrical issues would go unaddressed for weeks while the HOA-paid service people worked on pet projects.

I'm not saying that all HOAs are bad, but mandatory membership in one is a significant issue to consider before signing the papers on a new house. I'd suggest talking to potential neighbors about their experiences with their HOA before making a major decision.


I am trying to find information about HOAs. When I moved here, it consisted of homeowners only. Now over 50 percent of the mobile homes are owned by people who rent them out. Thus homeowners have to deal with a lot more problems along with property damage.

I moved here in 2001 and the same man has been president since and still is. We have no monthly meeting and homeowners do not get to help make the rules -- just the president and the board members. We are told if we don't like the rules, then move! We pay our $30 monthly fees, and if we get behind we are then threatened to be taken to court with the use of the money that homeowners pay. Thus, we are paying our HOA money to use to legally take any one of us to court. The president's wife is also on the board along with a few handpicked others of his choice.

He hires his own business to do the mowing around the clubhouse and other areas. He rents a part of the clubhouse for his own use (we have no idea what he pays monthly for that or if he even does). He hires relatives to do other jobs and it's my understanding that we even pay him. I assumed this was a volunteer job of the community, so as not to burden others. People were appointed yearly if they wanted the job, by the voting of all members.

We get to vote at a meeting yearly, but we get the papers in mail a few days before the meeting and it's usually when most people here have to be at work or don't get off in time to get to the meeting! HOAs are a ripoff in my book!

According to the president, we can fight against it, but will lose because the attorney in court and judges will grant what they want! It's a no win situation and a total ripoff. Someone is making money and benefiting from the money they collect and I can guarantee you we are not benefiting from it except the swimming pool which gets cleaned out once a year!


Then why the heck did you buy your home in a deed restricted community?


That's why I don't participate in this HOA deal! This is just some extra money to get out of a homeowner.

The reason for owning property is to become free from the renting and landlords. Now you have to deal with neighbors who can vote you out because you won't cut your grass on time! This is ridiculous!

That's why i don't have any neighbors or any crazy rules. My children run and play gracefully without the neighbors who don't have any kids complain that they are too loud! Buying a house is supposed to be the best thing in your life and investment, not a nightmare!

Check with your home loan and get out of this! This is a must to do and enjoy your house the no rules way!


my hoa is suing me for a violation. the lawyers rep from the hoa is trying to collect legal fees from me before going to court. Is this right?

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