Any person who buys a home in the geographic area of a homeowners association (HOA) typically becomes a member of the HOA. This is automatic, and it means the homeowner commits to obeying rules and regulations found in a document with covenants, conditions and restrictions enforced by the HOA.
Some say this is a good thing, while others say it limits the owner’s choices and maybe even politicizes certain situations when it comes to the use of the purchased property and the maintenance of the neighborhood. A major benefit of HOAs, however, is that they take care of common grounds that include landscaping and also are responsible for community areas like pools and playgrounds.
For the most part, master-planned communities like the ones in Fort Bend County come with HOAs. They also come with homeowner misunderstandings and complaints – legitimate and otherwise.
What brings HOAs to mind is that this is the time of year when many of them start sending their annual assessment or dues notices. As a member of an HOA, you must pay dues, which also finance regulation enforcement. But when it comes to rules feeling a bit restrictive, this is when an HOA is viewed as less helpful. This is more likely when homeowners feel the rules are not evenly applied or may not even make sense.
It’s fair to say that many homeowners have ended up confused about what they can and cannot do on their property. It’s also fair to say that communications for some reason are not as clear as the HOAs or their management companies would like them to be.
In the end, what happens is that some homeowners may start feeling picked on. And that is not a good thing. Some of them may even start turning in their neighbors by “telling” on them. That, too, is not a good thing.
A demand letter from HOAs every now and then does not seem to pose a problem, but there are some homeowners of the opinion that HOAs are coming onto their properties to single them out. Noncompliant items, like mold on a chimney only visible from within the property and not the street level, is what lends credence to this possibility.
HOAs may seem demanding about the dos and don’ts of living on your property, the one you purchased. They can regulate things like what type of trees you can plant and their removal to whether or not you can leave your garage door up during the day.
Are they out of control? An HOA’s role in maintaining the quality and value of homes in the neighborhood is a good thing and cannot be overlooked. After all, it was probably the look and feel of an area managed by an HOA that factored into a family’s move to that neighborhood.
Most homeowners in HOAs know their HOAs have the ability to fine them and even take them to court for non-compliance of the covenants, conditions and restrictions that apply to their property.
But who oversees them, the HOAs? The Texas Legislature does. For example, no longer allowed are non-judicial foreclosures by HOAs to seize properties delinquent on payments. HOAs are required to go through a judge for foreclosures. Also, HOAs in Texas are required by law to hold open meetings and to advise homeowners about the date, time and place of those meetings. So, if you don’t know much about or like the way your HOA is operating, consider attending their meetings, even getting elected to a policy-making position.
It was probably this kind of active involvement that now allows occasional kid-operated lemonade stands in HOA-managed neighborhoods. This year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill passed by the Texas Legislature making it OK for kids to sell non-alcoholic beverages, like lemonade, without any interference from the local government or an HOA.
“We had to pass a law because police shut down a kid’s lemonade stand,” Abbott said on Twitter.
It’s good to know this was not in Fort Bend County.
Get to know your HOA representatives. This reality is about rules, compliance and living in an area where property values will more than likely go up, in part due to HOAs.
It’s somewhat of a bittersweet thing – like lemonade!