How to Live With a Homeowner’s Association

More than 62 million Americans live in communities governed by a Homeowner’s Association (HOA), which is charged with maintaining the appearance, condition and general livability of the community. But living in such a community also places limits on what homeowners can do to their property, which can sometimes be a source of conflict.

The HOA’s board of directors might have a say, for example, in where you park, the number of pets you have or what color you paint your front door. They may also levy special assessments. If you are moving into an HOA community, knowing how to avoid or resolve issues can be valuable. Consumer advocates at provide a few basic tips:

Know the bylaws. Read through the deeds and covenants so that you clearly understand them.

Pay dues on time. If you fall behind, the association can foreclose on your home, auction it off and evict you.

Pay any fines. If you are fined for an infraction of the HOA bylaws, you can ask for a variance. If you don’t get it, however, you’ll have to pay the fine or go to court. Unpaid fines can also trigger foreclosure.

Attend board meetings. Scheduled association meetings are open to community residents. Attending them, and getting to know your board members and the way they handle routine business, as well as issues and complaints, can go a long way toward easing problems.

Run for a seat. If there is a vacancy on the board of directors, offer to fill it. Knowing the kinds of issues that come up, and how the board typically handles them can be helpful. 

Seek approval for changes. Before you build that chicken coop, seek board approval. If they object, listen to their reasoning and consider how your intended project might affect your neighbors.

Talk with your neighbors. If you have an issue, some of your neighbors may have the same problem. Approaching the HOA calmly with a number of residents experiencing a common issue can be helpful in getting it resolved.

If you have an issue, put it in writing. If your HOA is unresponsive to written communication, contact the directors by phone. If they don’t address a legitimate concern, you may need to seek legal advice.

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