It is not uncommon for owners governed by a Homeowners Association to have desires to increase their property value by adding improvements or making alterations to the property. There is however, the need to carefully consider the type of improvements you are planning to ensure that no HOA rules are broken in the process.
When you buy into a complex or estate with a Homeowners Association (or HOA) you automatically become liable to follow the Constitution and rules of that HOA. When doing alterations, following these rules can be challenging. Some owners, by not complying, find themselves on the receiving end of a warning letter for additional levies payable due to breaking HOA rules.
Recently this year, a Property24 reader enquired about a related problem he/she was experiencing:
“I bought into a homeowners’ association scheme where it stipulated that I must build within a certain time period. The time is up and I cannot afford to build and am now being threatened with 3 times the levies.”
According to Jennifer Paddock, Specialist Sectional Title Attorney and Managing Partner of Paddocks, who provided the Property24 reader with answers; there is very little power held by one lone member of an HOA when they overstep the rules.
“If you haven’t already, we suggest you chat to the executives of the HOA and explain your financial difficulty,” replies Paddock, “Perhaps they will give you some leeway. If they will not oblige, we suggest you either build as soon as possible and if that is not an option then you need to decide whether you sell or if you wait it out to get finance to build and pay the inflated levies in the meantime.”
Need to Know:
1. Asking Permission:
Any alterations that could cause communal disruption (via sound, increased foot-traffic, pollution, etc.) or create an ‘eyesore’ for other owners, are likely to have a strict time-limit attached for completion, failing which the HOA may levy penalties. Always consult with HOA or the HOA rules on whether your alteration will fall within or out of the guidelines.
2. Handling HOA Problems:
You have the right, and should be motivated, to approach the HOA concerning any problems you may experience with any of the set rules or other members of the Scheme. The HOA Manager should act as mediator in such cases and should help promote a fair and agreed solution.
3. Remember Voting:
Every owner that forms part of the HOA has voting right, so if there are rules that a group of owners would like to either abolish or add, then a meeting can be held by the full HOA and members can vote for/against the new rule.
You can take up legal action against an HOA, but remember that Courts are likely to favour with the HOA which has a set Constitution of Rules that is signed and agreed upon by you (the member) when you bought into the Scheme. In comparison, members who break the rules should have extremely good reasons for doing so. By signing into a Homeowners Association setup you acknowledge both the rules and your adherence to them. Thus, should you break them in any way, it would be deemed only fair for the HOA Management Team to issue additional levies (as fines) to your account.
The other downfall of opposing the HOA via legal action is that you damage the relationship between you and the other owners of the HOA. Remind yourself that these other members are your neighbours and your objective should be to live in a peaceful environment with them.