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The Scoop on Homeowners Associations

homeowners association The Scoop on Homeowners AssociationsIf you’ve lived in Loudoun for any period of time, or are considering moving here, you’ve probably realized that many homes here are part of homeowners associations.  Homeowners associations (HOA) are legal corporations formed by  real estate developers to market, to manage, and to sell homes and lots in a residential subdivision.

They’re most commonly formed for condominiums and planned urban developments (PUDs), a category which includes suburban communities.

HOA Articles of Incorporation typically grant developers privileged voting rights in governing the association during its beginning stages, while providing the means for the developer to exit financial and legal responsibility for the organization, transferring ownership to the homeowners of the association. This transfer typically occurs after a predetermined number of units have been sold — often two-thirds of the available lots or units.

Each homeowners association enforces its own governing documents in the form of restrictive covenants, by-laws, architectural guidelines and regulations. Together, the “rules” of an HOA are meant to define the community standards for the purpose of protecting property values. The restrictive covenants vary widely from association to  association; they may include guidelines on issues as varied as where parking is permissible,  planned architectural improvements, or landscaping rules.

HOAs often enforce these common restrictive covenants, among others :

  • •Boats, utility trailers, RVs, and commercial vehicles may not be parked in driveways and streets
  • Homes may not be painted in “loud” colors (you’ll need to get your paint choices approved)
  • Yard signage may not be political in nature or defamatory
  • Lawn care must be performed routinely to prevent overgrowth
  • For condos with balconies, towels and clothing may not be draped on railing

For homes governed by an HOA, membership in the homeowners association is a condition of purchase; buyer are not permitted to opt-out. In Virginia, it’s specified in the contract to purchase whether the home is governed by an HOA, condo association, or both. The sellers are required to provide the purchasers with a package of HOA documents prepared by the association, including up to date budgets, bylaws, covenants, and guidelines, as well as any open violations or past due fees for the home. When the buyer receives the packet, they have three days to review the information, and if any details change their mind about the offer, they have the right to void the contract.

If you are thinking of buying, here’s a great post on what to expect as part of the process.

Cheers,
Mike