HOA Membership 101

Congratulations! You just acquired a bunch of new relatives. That’s right. If you live in a condominium or covenant-controlled community, or if you own a commercial space in a building or complex, you may as well think of the other owners as cousins. That’s because you all own something in common (even if it is just a rulebook) and you all need to share it. “But…….”, you say, “I don’t even know some of the other owners and I don’t like some of the ones I do know.” Just like cousins. You can’t get rid of them either. You are in this together. Here are some time-tested tips to help keep your community one big happy family.

  • The five problem “P’s” of common interest associations are pets, parking, patios, payments and personalities. If everyone manages their “P’s” like adults, you will have few problems. There is one more very pesky area, and that is common utilities, including water.
  • Read your governing documents before decide to buy. Plan to read them first thing in the morning with a big pot of coffee. They still may put you to sleep, but they are SO IMPORTANT. If you end up in court, in collections or in a big insurance claim, the folks who make the decisions go right for the governing documents. If you don’t understand something you read, ask your lawyer or ask your real estate broker to find out. Or post me. We won’t play lawyer, but we can probably tell you what kind of situations that particular “whereas” relates to. Then we'll tell you to call your lawyer if you need further help.
  • If you plan to change the documents as soon as you buy, don’t buy.
  • Pay your assessments. Most associations are truly non-profits. Your tardiness could shut the power off! Additionally, many lenders will not lend on any property in an association with a lot of delinquent members. If you have a problem with management or Board, address it professionally and in writing. If you have a true hardship, communicate with the Board. Most boards are happy to work with you. Don’t withhold payment.
  • Get to know your neighbors. They are probably nice people, and even if they aren’t, you are still in this together. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t! If you have a problem with your neighbor, please try to work it out with them before you take it to the Board.
  • Know your Board members. They are probably untrained and unpaid and doing this job out of the goodness of their hearts. So start by thanking them and make any input constructive and respectful. Don’t expect any special favors. They have a responsibility to everyone.
  • Be respectful in all communication. Assume that management will be happy you brought the problem to their attention and they will address it. If they don’t, contact the Board.
  • If you want to dispute the rules, don’t call management. Call the Board. They either made the rules or they are bound by the governing documents. Either way, they should be able to explain them.