Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are organizations that create and enforce rules within a community. Usually, their focus is to keep the neighborhood maintained and in good shape to ensure housing valuation goes up. Membership in an HOA as a property owner comes with a set of fees, so what should you know when buying a home in one of these communities?
Can HOA Fees Go Up?
Although some HOAs may have limits as to how much they can increase dues, it is true that all HOAs can raise their fees. They do so based on the projections for the year regarding upcoming expenses and the budget they have created. However, raising fees is not completely up to the board; HOAs must follow their local/state laws and governing documents while considering a due increase.
States oftentimes will have laws that prevent HOA due increases or set limits as to how much those dues can inflate. These provisions can prohibit HOAs from raising fees over a certain percentage or dollar amount. Make sure you check your local laws to see whether they have any influence on the actions of your HOA.
The governing documents that the board references are called the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, restrictions and easements). These guidelines dictate how the HOA can collect and assess their fees. Sometimes, the organization will have assessment limits for dues, so it’s important that you read your HOA’s CC&Rs if you’re curious about what limits and rules they have concerning increases.
However, some homeowners prefer to not have limited increases on HOA dues. Severe limits can prevent an HOA board from making necessary changes to the community. When problems go ignored, property values can decrease and issues between the HOA and its homeowners can intensify. In most cases, the HOA will find a reasonable number for dues that is not too high or too low, since those who sit on the board must also pay whatever amount they decide and live in the community it governs.
How are HOA Fees Calculated?
Not all HOAs are created equal. Some may provide endless amenities and services, while others cover only the basics. Also, some communities are bigger than others or have different types of housing. These differences mean that each HOA charges different amounts.
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to note that HOA dues can always increase as services or amenities either rise in price or are renovated and made better. Your board should hold an annual meeting where the members of the community vote on proposed fee increases, so make sure that you participate as much as possible in the decision-making process. Remaining active in your HOA is a great way to feel more informed about what actions they may be taking in your neighborhood.
What Happens if You Don’t Pay HOA Fees?
Now that we’ve covered what goes into the amount you pay in HOA fees, it’s crucial to mention the consequences of not paying them.
If you pay your HOA fees late, it’s probable that you’ll be charged additional late fees. These late fees can add up fast, so make sure that you understand when your fee is due so you can avoid paying unnecessary charges. Most of the time, your HOA will allow you to set up automatic payments. Autopay is a great idea for people who either struggle to remember their payments or who simply want one less thing to worry about when it comes to paying recurring fees.
If you already know that you’re going to be late on a payment, try to tell your board as soon as you can. They may extend the option to pay via a payment plan or some other avenue that’ll help you out if you find yourself in a tough financial situation.
In extreme circumstances where you are multiple payments behind, an HOA can take legal action to collect the money you owe. They can go as far as foreclosing on your home, placing a lien on it, or charging you late fees and interest. Be sure that you completely understand your HOAs bylaws and policies so you can know what to expect if you do find yourself falling behind on payments or paying late.
Overall, it’s best to treat your HOA due like a rent payment. Pay it on time and in full each month so you can avoid the headache of late fees and other consequences that come with inconsistent payments.
HOA fees may seem unnecessary, but when you think about all the benefits that your HOA provides to you as a homeowner, it’s easy to see why charging a monthly fee is needed. Also, if you’re unhappy with the amount you pay, you can reach out to your HOA board or gather your neighbors to try and make changes democratically. Be sure you check your CC&Rs to better understand the rules that govern your HOA and what your rights and responsibilities are as a homeowner within it.