Investing in property within a Homeowners Association can be a very wise decision when considering to live in a well-regulated area.
“The covenants and regulations of a Homeowners Association exists to maintain and increase the value of your property. For example, they ensure that no member (you or your neighbours) does anything damaging, like allowing numerous commercial vehicles to park in their driveway, painting their home an undesirable colour, disturbing the neighbourhood with abhorrent noise pollution, or any form of vandalism,” says Property Portfolio Administrator for Opportunity Property Management, Anielia Lötter.
In a HOA (Homeowners Association), it is important for every member (the owners) to cooperate within the best interests of the entire scheme (whether it is a condominium, complex, estate of townhouses, etc.). The same advice goes to owners who invest within a Sectional Title scheme (like within an apartment building). By following management rules, owners within the above mentioned residential types not only have a better chance at increasing the value of the property, they also help create a community with an ideal, comfortable and secure lifestyle.
“Homeowners associations come with numerous benefits, which the management team has the duty of overseeing,” says Lötter, “In return for monthly fees (known as ‘levies’), the management team can provide comforts, such as parks, pools, golf courses, landscape maintenance, club houses, cleaners and even set up an annual fundraising event or two.”
The following tips will help you get the best out of your HOA, while still being a cooperative member:
7 Top Tips for HOA Owners:
1. Know & Follow the Rules: Upon buying property within an HOA, you will have to agree to the HOA’s rules by signing a contract. The best advice to any HOA member is to know and understand these rules. Every HOA is different and some may have very strict provisions. If your contract prohibits the use of lawn mowers on Sundays due to the noise, would you be fine with that? What if you are not allowed to park your old pick-up truck within the neighbourhood? The best prevention to a penalty fee is to know what not to do.
2. Be Active: Attend all the meetings, read all the HOA newsletters, stay informed about changes or alterations to the rules and regulations, speak up when you recognise unjust acts within the neighbourhood or management, and even aim to become a member of the Board. The most important meeting, which should never be missed, is the Annual General Meeting where the new members of the Board of Directors are chosen and where you can discuss concerning problems.
3. Get to Know Your Neighbours: Remembering that you are not the only owner falling prey to unexpected and massive penalties and levies can be very beneficial. Neighbours who are aware of each other’s struggles can stand together to help solve them, for example if you put out offensive lawn ornaments while unaware of a regulation that prohibits it, an unfriendly neighbour will easily report you to be fined, while a friendly neighbour is more likely to approach you to resolve the matter penalty-free.
4. Pay Responsibly: Avoid threats of foreclosure and ensure that all your fees are paid in full and on time. Even if there exists an irregularity, it is always better to pay first and then solve the problem. By refusing to pay your monthly levies or penalty fees you not only receive a bad reputation within the HOA, but you run the risk of being handed over to a debt collection agency which will certainly cost you more than the outstanding fees.
5. Get Approval: Even for the smallest thing that another neighbour, or management, may deem disruptive. Most people choose living in a HOA for the peace and beauty it provides to its residents. If you plan to throw a New Year’s party that will certainly cause noise into the early hours of the morning, it may result in expensive penalties if you failed to receive the HOA’s permission (in advance and in writing). The same advice should be followed when considering physical alterations to your property, like painting your door red, or building a concrete fence. The last thing you want is the complications accompanied by the complaints of a neighbour, and having written permission from the Board of Directors / Trustees will certainly count in your favour when complaints do arise.
6. Document Everything: As with everything in life, always keep all relevant documents in an organised fashion, as evidence. All the proof of payments for your monthly levies, penalties, or whatever other form of payment you make to the HOA should be kept to prevent any unwanted financial issues. Keep copies of all contracts and agreements for alterations as backups, for your own safety, and do not be afraid to request the HOA’s financial documents to check that levies are used responsibly.
7. Know the Backup Plan: There may be scenarios where you struggle with a rather aggressive association, which could lead to unfair penalty fees or harshly increased levies. You may also have attempted, numerous times, to bring a complaint to the attention of the Board, with no success. Instead of taking your rage out in a manner that leads to even more penalty levies, make an appointment with your legal consultant. A legal consultant will help you decide what method of action would be best; requesting assistance from institutions such as NAMA (National Association of Managing Agents) or ARC (Association of Residential Communities), approaching the media, or (the last resort) taking legal action.
Always remain informed by visiting the Opportunity Property Management website regularly, especially concerning topics related to Homeowners Association and Sectional Title management.