Personal Finance, The Home 

What Does Your Homeowners Association Do?

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When I first shopped around I thought it was ridiculous that I would have to something like $30-$50 a month to some homeowner’s association (HOA) on top of a mortgage, insurance, taxes, etc. It wasn’t the dollar amount, it was a case of the final straw hitting that poor proverbial camel’s back. This was made especially aggregious after hearing stories of HOA’s that did very little in the community… luckily the area I moved into had not only a relatively inexpensive HOA fee but a relatively active HOA.

I pay $195 every six months ($32.50) to a homeowner’s association (HOA) and I think it’s a fair thing to ask. Certainly I can list all the things that they say they do, but after living in the house for nearly a year (and experiencing all the seasons) I can honestly list all the things they actually do. How does this stack up against your HOA?

Snow Service
The HOA’s jurisdiction isn’t a terribly large area, I imagine fewer than a hundred town homes, but the snow service has been pretty good. We’ve only had a couple dustings (only one notable snowstorm of a foot plus of snow and a few multi-inchers) but the guy came out in his little caterpillar-esq snow plow and plowed out all the parking areas and connecting streets. He also pulled out the snow blower, cleared off sidewalks and paths, and salted them down.

Grassy Common Area Upkeep
Thus far we’ve had three major trees (20 feet+) removed because they had died and they were removed rather expeditiously. All were taken down in a day and in their place a bare patch covered in grass seed (some fluffy mixture of seed, fertilizer and protectant) remained. They also mow the lawn regularly (supposed to be once every two weeks but I doubt it’s that often).

Repaving Streets
In each of the three “areas” there is usually a square of town homes that surround a parking area. The outside ring of the parking area has slightly elevated resident reserved parking spots and there is a two by ten section of parking spots in the middle that surrounding a little grassy area. Well, once every three years (it happened just this year) they repave the entire area and spray the lines and numbers. This is very nice because the better the roads, the less crap gets kicked up and dents/scratches your car. The lines, I suspect, will likely be repainted each year along with the curb.

Once A Year On-Site Dumpster
Once a year, usually in June, the HOA grabs a dumpster and puts it in one of the areas for a weekend. You can dump any non-hazardous trash into that dumpster and it gives you a great chance to toss something without having to make the trip to the dump itself.

Community Maintenance Watch
Usually people don’t like this but I like it a lot. How often have you seen a neighbor’s lawn, which hasn’t been mowed in a month, look like crap? It’s unsightly but it’s not really your place to criticize someone else’s home and tell them how to take care of it right? And even if you could, there’s no reason why they should listen! That’s why the HOA’s monitoring comes in handy. Let them do the dirty work so you don’t have to. It let’s the passive aggressive thrive!

There are other perks that I don’t take advantage of, and thus don’t recognize, but I think even if it were limited to the ones above I wouldn’t mind paying $30 a month to be in the HOA.

{ 78 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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78 Responses to “What Does Your Homeowners Association Do?”

  1. Dus10 says:

    I am pretty disgusted with my homeowner’s association. This is the second home I have owned in my community (it is a rather large community that spans the corners of three counties). I pay $600 a year in HOA dues. All of the homeowners pay this amount, and the commercial “residents” pay $1200 a year (we have a Meijer, Menards, McDonalds, White Castle, three banks, an Applebees, three denists, two physicians, a nursing home, a golf course, and several other shops). In total, there are probably 1,000 homes, and 200 apartment units. For this, we are supposed to get snow removal (I have not seen it), roads paved (main boulevard has major potholes, and they have been there for months), common areas upkept (they have done this), and swimming pools (there are eight of them for the entire community, and they are threatening to close one down). I am am furious. I do not think I will deal with another HOA. My next home will be out of a neighborhood.

    • BMOC says:

      Yes, alot of the HOAs collect this money and then are inactive. They don’t use it to keep the development up like the homeowners expect, so the homeowners are getting very little for there money. Also things like common safty of residents, vadalizism and crimes going un-checked out of houses in the community because the HOA says it is a individual problem

  2. jim says:

    Dus10, unfortunately the vast majority of HOA anecdotes I hear are along the same lines as yours, why don’t you call out the HOA’s board and get something done? It seems like a lot of money to have nothing completed.

  3. Matt says:

    When my fiancee and I buy a house, we’re going to try as hard as we can manage to get one in a HOA-free area. Why pay extra money every month in order to have the worst nosy busybodies in town send you threatening letters because they disagree with your choice of decoration, disapprove of your desire for window treatments that actually exclude light and provide privacy, forbid you to commute to work on your chosen shift, impose fines on you for your choice of friends, and threaten legal action based on how often you have sex?

    Living under a HOA seems just like renting…except more expensive and more restrictive.

    • Ce says:

      Amen Our HOA used to be pretty good until Hitler arrived in charge. Now we have more busy body neighbors than before. Plus the Board wants to charge you for everything you want to do to your own property. If I could get out of here I would.

      • Amanda G King says:

        I can’t stand HOA’s and I am the president of mine. If idiots would only follow the rules and regulations set down by he zoning board, there would be no need for HOA’s. However, people will be people and when they destroy their property value, they also destroy yours. I run my HOA fairly, and we don’t charge our homeowners for anything but their dues. If your HOA is charging for things, you need to look into your covenants, because that sounds illegal. Kickbacks are against the law, and should never be tolerated by the homeowners. Another thing you could do, is to organize a petition and have at least 67% or more of the homeowners to sign it and agree to disband the HOA. You may need to get a free consultation with an attorney to ask him to help you interpret your covenants.

        I wish you plenty of luck, because there will be homeowners who will be afraid to disband the HOA, for fear that people will paint their homes PURPLE. (An old real estate joke). I used to be a realtor. People will be afraid that other people won’t keep their property values up, and with an HOA, they know they would have to.

        Keep me posted on your progress.

        • Anthony says:

          Hello’ I recently purchased a foreclosed home & I received a large bill for fees charged before I closed on the home,is this legal? Should’nt the home owner that lost the home be responsible? Thanks any assistance will help.

          • Amanda G King says:

            Hi Anthony,

            That sounds illegal to me all the way around. Why don’t you check with a realtor and just see if they can go over the contract and paperwork with you. Most decent realtors will do it for nothing. When purchasing a foreclosed home, I do know that you should pay for the cost of the home and maybe back taxes due on the home, plus closing cost, but you should never be paying fees upfront. Sounds like someone is trying to scam you.

        • Mike brewer says:

          How long does it take a hoa to do something?The rental proberty next to me has multi violations.broken down cars,trash every where,storing crap all down the side of the house.Been complainin for 2 months and the only answer i get from my hoa is it takes times.How long it take? bring my whole street down.

        • Barb says:

          Hi. I just read your post. I live in a mobile home court and am starting up an HOA. My main concern, right now are the by-laws. Can you give me some hints how to start? Thanks


        • Brandi says:

          I was glad to read a post from an actual HOA president because i know they can be good if they have a good leader and I see then reason for them. We had a great one at our last home but now at our new place we get monthly letters complaining about everything. The last one basically said our children are not allowed outside at all! It wasn’t a letter to us personally it was to all residents but that was what the letter said. We live in a condo and the kids are now not allowed to play outside anywhere. Is that actually something they can enforce? Who can I talk to about the HOA? We live in sunny San Diego and my kids can’t play outside? They NEVER leave anything out in the common area, they mostly sit in the grass under the trees or jump rope in the shade. What can I do?

  4. John Koontz says:

    I pay 3 associations a total of around $280/month. I get water and trash, a pool, and some flowers. That’s abou it. Isn’t southern California great!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Matt –

    I’ll give you a couple reasons why home owner’s associations are a good thing. HOA’s keep your neighbors from painting their house purple, lining up their 18 tractors in the front yard, letting their grass grow 5 feet, drying laundry on clothes lines out front, etc. After all the complaining that everyone does, HOA’s do serve a purpose (I pay 208/month).

    • J. says:

      Sounds like most of these fall under city ordinace rules. Our hoa does nothing but water the weeds at the entrance to the subdivision and cut around the retention pond. Not worth the money they receive from home owners.

  6. Matt says:

    I can accept that there’s some value in paying to have things like snow removal done communally. But I dispute the legitimacy of any interest in what color my house is painted, if that interest is held by someone whose name doesn’t appear on the deed or the mortgage papers.

  7. jim says:

    $208 a month!?!?!?!??!?!?!!

    Matt – with regard to the color of your house, my HOA is pretty reasonable in approving colors as long as it’s not ridiculous like purple. Honestly, I think that’s a good thing. Now, as you move along the spectrum towards awful HOAs with power hungry little bastards who are just nosy, I can understand the flip side of that sentiment.

  8. Dus10 says:


    Unfortunately, our huge community is not completed, at this point. There are still about another 500 properties to go. Our subdivision is broken up into further areas. One of those area just started, while two of the areas are primarily custom homes, and they are only about 50% built out. So, the homeowners association is run by the lead developer of the entire community. There is not much doing there.


    I hear what you are saying… but HOAs can be more trouble than they are worth. For instance, one of our covenents is that when you sell your home, it must house as many cars as it housed when you purchased it. That is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read! If I build a room in my garage, and the buyer decides to purchase my home, then the buyer agreed to purchase the home with the room in the garage (not that I am going to do that). Further, our HOA uses a law firm to manage everything. This law firm manages about 20 different communities in the southwest metro Indy area. At one of the other communities, they got on a homeowner because the trim around the windows of the home had paint flaking off. That is all well and good. So, the homeowner gets the can of paint that the builder gave to him (which is the exact paint used on the trim in the first place), and he gets fined because he did not get the paint approved by the HOA, first! That is nuts!

    • Amanda G King says:

      I am reading not HOA policies, but horror stories. My word, who in the heck is running your HOA’s that are charging for not getting approval for paint? I am the president of my HOA, and although we threaten homeowners for not removing boats, RV’s, and tents from the front lawns, we never actually fined anyone. We only do it as a scare tactic. We are in a brand new community that is still being built. Right now I am running an HOA with about 200 homes in it and more on the way, and my board treats our homeowners wonderful. We charge for HOA dues and that is it. Since I took office back in October 2008, I have lowered my homeowners fees $100.00 The homeowners here love me to death, because I try to help everyone. If somebody cannot pay, I setup a payment plan for them, and I also delete late fees as well. I am a human being and treat others the same. I am very sorry and appalled that you all are being treated worser than animals. I would have to get the other homeowners to sign a petition to disband the HOA. You would probably need at least 67% to 100% of the signatures of all homeowners to do this. Again, there will be people who won’t want to help. Consult with an attorney for a free consultation about your ongoing problems, and see what can be done.

      Good Luck!

      • Flores says:

        Ms. King,
        I am dealing with the same thing. I live in Las Vegas, NV and my HOA is Terra West…they service Reno, Utah and Las Vegas. Every year they raise the rates by $8 (upcoming proposed rate is $66). They don’t do nothing to earn the $8. It has been a year and half since I kept emailing HOA regarding weeds and brush from the vacant lots. All they do is ignore. Other homeowners have tried with no luck. Well, they have a facebook and on it they have some board members. I decided to friend them and post the pictures on their page. Within a few days after the post, they sent a cleaning crew. Last year also before summer, 1 of 3 pools were closed by the Department of Health for not up keeping. They harass and bully. Once they homeowners harass and bully them – they don’t like it.
        They do up keeping when people complain and state “well, he have no money and we ask the homeowners to volunteer.”. Then what are we paying them to do? To harass people? I said that to them.
        I have no issue paying the extra $8.00 if they actually did something to earn it.

        • LVRes says:

          Flores, you sound like you are in the same community as me. You are absolutely right about Terra West. They now charge $66/month and I don’t think its justified. They constantly harass me about my landscaping. Those weeds you talked about are still there. They gave my neighbor a problem about his satellite dish to the point he had to take it down. They are horrible and once I move it will be to a non HOA community.

  9. The HOA at our old house maintained the pool and common areas, but didn’t do much else besides tell people that they couldn’t fence their yard when the bylaws specifically stated that you could. It cost $30/month which was a decent deal for convenient pool access, but otherwise they were nothing more than an annoyance. Our new neighborhood doesn’t have an HOA — just an architectural control committee (ACC) to oversee improvements. No fees, but we don’t have a pool. We joined a nearby pool and are paying around $360/year, which reinforces my belief that the HOA dues of $30/month were pretty much offset by the pool access.

  10. Now I’m curious…

    “forbid you to commute to work on your chosen shift”

    “threaten legal action based on how often you have sex”

    Can you provide some details on these two (where have they happened, under what circumstances, etc)??? Or do you just include those for effect?

  11. frugal mama says:

    Let’s see… I have snow removal, a street cleaner every week the day after trash pick-up, re-paving, a community bike path and indoor & outdoor pools. My dues? They are called taxes.

    Unlike communities with HOAs, I also have a 6-foot custom fence in my yard, awesome neighbors who chat with me because they like me not just to “get the scoop” on my home plans, and the freedom to plant a flower where I want it in the yard I paid for and legally own.

    Not to criticize anyone who is happy – this is just my two cents – HOAs, in my opinion, are a bad idea unless you want to live in an Orwellian society.


  12. GVS says:

    Many HOA/COAs consist of the neighborhood busybodies who have found a way to “legitimize” their nosy behavior. I agree that a COA can have a very positive effect on home values in a community, however, it more often degrades into a tyranical majority intent on imposing their view of “community” on all.

    The truly scary part of many associations is that they fail to ensure an adequate reserve fund for future capital expenditures. Developers purposely keep the dues low to encourage sales. After the homeowners assume control and they are forced to raise the dues to establish an adequate reserve, they are faced with a backlash from the residents. Our $627 annual dues in Tucson is supposed to support both annual operation and future captial repairs to all streets, common walls and parkways, tennis courts, bocce ball courts, basketballs courts, 2 pools and 2 club houses. Although dues have been raised by $1-$2 per year, the reserve is still less than 50% funded 15 years after the developer left. Since many of the streets and common area were substandard, they are now need major repairs and the only alternative is to make a special assessment to cover the expenses.

    Home buyers should obtain and review copies of the CCR’s, HOA/COA annual budget and at least a 3 month’s of the board minutes prior to commiting to a purchase; after all, you are not just purchasing the home, you are also purchasing a share of the HOA/COA!

    • Amanda G King says:

      If the developer still has a management company running the HOA, then you have problems. You will need to hold an election of homeowners to vote a new board and fire all managment and the old managment company. I am the president of my HOA, and the first thing we did when we took office, was to fire the management company that was hired by the builder. That management company was on board for 7 years, and when I got a check from them, it was for $1588.00 that was left in our reserves. Now that I am in office, we have over $6700 in reserves in the short time I ‘ve been in office. I took office in October 2008 and it is now June, and our reserves are coming along nicely. I have also lowered all homeowners dues $100.00 for this year. Management companies hired by the builders and the builders themselves rip off the homeowners before they get into the door good.

  13. Rob Carlson says:

    With the exception of tree removal, my county does all the things your HOA does for the cost of my property taxes.

  14. Frank says:

    HOA’s have become a terrible infringement on the property rights of owners. In the name of “saving everyone from a purple house!” they have increased their control over everything in the neighborhood until you may as well not even own the property. The governing bodies are typically made up of political wanna-be’s with napolean complexes who stick their noses into everybody elses business. Essentially, they have formalized that nosey neighbor down the street that noone likes anyway. I have never had a neighbor move in and paint their house “day glo orange” and that was before hoa’s were so prevelant. In fact, how many people have actually encountered any of the “transgressions that hoa’s are saving you from? The only reason hoa’ have become so widespread is because corporate builders want them in place to enforce a common look while they are selling out the development. Once the development is closed out and the builder leaves, they don’t care at all what happens. In fact in my case, once the builder left, our neighborhood voted to disband the hoa. The day the hoa starts paying my note, is the day they can tell me what to do with my property.

    Our rugged American forefathers would be disgusted with the sheep-like demeanor in which we accept these intrusive organizations.

    • Gregg says:

      Right On Frank – yes our forefathers would be embarrassed with many of the sheeplike activities our ‘peers’ do/say.

  15. Dick Farrell says:

    Dear Frank on July 1st, 2006 at 12:34 pm ,
    I would like the full details on how to disband an HOA.

    Besides clothes lines, the HOA Nazis here are anti-pigeon.

    I like pigeons and I like clothes lines and eventhough I have only been twice threatened with $50.00 fines for hanging out my laundry, I find myself fearing the post that may bring a similar fine because I feed the pigeons, and finches, and quail, and rabbits. The coyote, antelope and chucker have all left, although at 3 in the morning I can still faintly hear the coyote calls. They are more distant this year than last. Perhaps the antelope, chucker and coyote are smarter than I am.

    dick farrell

  16. New Home Owner says:

    I am a new home owner and one of the criteria was I had to become a member of the HOA, because it is a gated community……..

    I bought a David Weekley Home and this is my first time to own and I have always lived in apartments so this is a bit new to me. I have been reading the rules and regulations and it is scaring me to death! Can someone give me some good advice or let me know that it’s ok, because after all this will be my home for a while!

    Thank you all for being there for me

    New Home Owner

  17. J Krisanda says:

    I found this site while doing some research for the HOA that I manage in upstate NY. I have to say, I am not surprised at the responses to the question. There are days I ask the same question. “What do we do for the resident?” Moreover, I am the manager of an HOA.

    The average homeowner in our community pays about $600.00 per year. However, we have some corp. members that pay considerably more. In all, our budget is about 1.2 million dollars. We manage approx. 4.2 square miles of property and we directly maintain about 125 acres. On that property we have 7 ponds and about 60 acres of grass. In addition we have 5 playground areas, three buildings, a pool and the rest is forested. Our biggest problem seems to be is we are under assessed. I know that is going to raise some eyebrows and will probably meet stiff resistance or I will be called a “NAZI”, but for ten years the assessment was not raised. To be blunt the cost of living has gone up 40% and the assessment went up 5%. If you are in business you don’t need any further explanation. The solution is to cut services or raise assessments. Neither is acceptable.

    For instance, one gallon of gas costs $3.03. About 120% more than last year. How is that the HOA’s fault. Taxes have gone up 72% in ten years. Again, how is the the HOA’s fault. Our compenstion insurance and payroll burden has gone up 62%. All of which are outside the control of the HOA. The only alternative is to do the current work with the same number of employees as we had in 1996. However, the size of the comman space has doubled.

    So I will pose a counter question to this group. How do you maintain a property with 30% less money than needed and keep the same services? Moreover, I really would like some honest feedback. That is why I am researching the information. I want the community to benefit.

    One last comment, the word “NAZI” gets thrown around alot and maybe a few managers get a bit power hungry, but in the long run most HOA’s protect the home values. In todays market that is very important. However, the word, in this context, is unprofessional and childish. I would expect more from professionals that really want to make a difference in how HOA work. (Just my opinion)

    Thank you for your assistance and feel free to email me with any ideas.

  18. Charmaine says:

    I have a question does everybody in a community pay the same amount for home owner’s dues?

  19. Delmer says:

    I found thid site while researching my own association, whuch exists, but no one pays dues. Somehow the 5 acre common area gets cut, and I know the county takes care of the roads.

    I find it interesting that one other commin area, possibly unknown to residents, is being farmed by an adjacent farmer.

    I am able to trace the association to a PO box which doubles as, suprise, the real estate agency that is listed as being the sellers of all the land in the neighborhood.

    Is there a skunk in the woodpile here? Isn’t there some sort of initial pool of money in an account that belongs to the homeowner’s association? I for one would like the common area set up with a walking path and a pet area.. and I sho would like someone to ask “that neighbor” to clean up the 30 foot patch of oil stains in his yard, plant some grass and stop leaving broken cars in the yard for 6 months at a time.

  20. Laurie Knox says:

    I have a question. I am sure a homeowners’ association can require parking permits, demand to be able to inspect garages, and that garages be used for parking. However, can they arbitrarily require that we pay $25.00 a year to reinspect the garages and pay to renew guest passes each year? I feel that if a homeowner is following the rules, and is willing to show that the garage is used for the required purposes, there is no logical reason to have to continue to pay these fees. It costs nothing for someone on the board or for security to merely look inside my garage and see that two cars are indeed parked there.

    Second question. Can an association refuse to set up termite control for the homeowners? They say we each must do this on our own, but that is very difficult. Why can’t they just set it up and assess whatever is needed. We have been told the subject is a closed subject. In the past they always not only set it up, but paid for it. Can they just change policy?

  21. Lindsay says:

    I have a question… can an HOA kick you out? You bought the property, do they ever have any grounds to demand you move out? It hasn’t happened to me or anyone I know, I’m just curious.

  22. Lucy says:

    I cannot answer anyone’s legal questions because I am not a qualified and the laws vary from each state and city. My HOA just made their current revision of CC&Rs April, 2007. This date is crucial due to Civil Code 1360.5 I am now permitted to bring my Shih Tzu into my condo legally. Since the new revision took place after January 1, 2001, state law states: “No governing documents shall prohibit the owner of a separate interest within a common interest development from keeping at least one pet within the common interest development, subject to reasonable rules and regulations of the association. This section may not be construed to affect any other rights provided by law to an owner of a separate interest to keep a pet within the development.”

    If you have any questions regarding the legality of your CC&Rs, contact an attorney. I agree with most of the people here regarding members of the board. They are mostly “busy bodies” in my complex who are power hungry and have no regard for the quality of life for its resident owners.

  23. Michelle says:


    I do have a question for you. I recently purchased a home in a community
    that apparently does not have a home owners association. At the closing we were given a list of covenants for the neighborhood. My question is who enforces these rules and how do they do so? In addition, how can try to start an association once the development is established?

    Thanks for your help!

  24. Disillusioned says:

    We just purchased a new townhome in a new development in Northern Virginia. We’ve lived here 2 months and are still in the process of finding a place for everything in between commuting at least 3 hours daily and trying to live a normal life. Yesterday we got a nasty gram from the HOA saying they had inspected our property and found an “accumulation of trash and debris” in the backyard. Here’s what was there: a grill, yard tools, including 2 leaf rakes, a shovel, and an ice chipper, 2 lawn sprinklers and hoses (belonging to the developer), a garbage cart, covered garbage can and recycling bin.

    If this is what we will have to put up with for the next several years, then we have made a big mistake. We have been so thrilled to be in a new home, and I feel completely deflated — no, worse than that. I am sick about having purchased this home.

    By the way, the items described above are not visible from the street or for the neighbors. The HOA inspector had to physically come around the back and encroach on my property. This is not common ground.

    And for this we pay $70.00 per month — no pool, no community room, nothing except a tot lot and common areas between sections.

  25. Lisa says:

    We moved into our home in Feb 2001. In August of 2006 a handful of homeowners decided they would start and HOA. It has been a mess since then and many of us have thrown in together to get an attorney. Now the courts will decide.

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