What should you consider before moving into a Community Association
You've decided you want to simplify your life and move into a condo on the beach but you've never lived in a home where you were part of an association and you are not sure it is for you? Here are some simple guidelines to help you determine if association living makes sense.
First let's define what community homeowner associations, commonly referred to as Association, are about. When you buy a condominium, townhouse or other type of property in a gated community or sub-division, you are required to join the association and pay monthly or annual fees for the upkeep of common areas and the building. This includes maintaining the common areas of the building such as landscaping, elevators, swimming pools, clubhouses, parking garages, fitness rooms, sidewalks, security gates, roofing and the building exterior. Many of these types of common areas, such as pools and tennis courts, also exist in subdivisions of single family homes.
The goal of the association fees are to maintain the quality of life for the community's residents and protect property values for all owners.
This is typically the part of Associations that most people support and then there are the rules. In addition to maintaining common areas, Associations also set out certain rules that all residents must follow called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). In a typical building, rules may include what color front door you may have, whether you are allowed to line dry your laundry outside, whether you can have a satellite dish, the size and type of pets permitted, and so on. In many ways, these rules are similar to the types of rules apartment dwellers must follow. In a subdivision with individual homes, regulations may include what color you can paint your home, the exterior landscaping you can do, the types of vehicles you can park on the street or in your driveway (no RVs, for example), permissible type and height of fences, and restrictions on window coverings for windows facing the street.
If you want to do anything that differs from these rules, you will have to convince the Association to grant you a variance, which is probably unlikely. No matter where you live, you are likely to be subject to city ordinances and restrictions related to the use of your property. Associations add yet another layer of restrictions and because their members are more likely to know what you're up to, the Association is more likely to enforce the rules. So, let's take a look at some of the rules and regulations you need to know about before you decide to join one of these communities.
9 Key Things You Need To Know About Living in a Community Association:
While there are laws governing the behavior of Associations, they can still have a powerful impact on your rights as a homeowner. Before buying a property in a community that has an Association you should:
1. Review the Association's rules thoroughly
Make sure you get a copy of the rules before you consider purchasing a property. The Association's CC&Rs should be available online or you can ask your real estate agent for them. Get familiar with what the rules are and what happens if you violate a rule. If you feel they are too restrictive, look elsewhere.
2. Make sure the property you are interested in is not already out of compliance with Association rules
Buying into an existing problem can be a headache, so find out what the rules are and whether you would have to make changes to the home to comply.
3. Assess environmental practices
Being environmentally friendly may be important to you so make sure your Association also places the same importance on green practices. If not, you may want to reconsider whether it is the right place for you.
4. Consider your temperament
This is super important. If you don't like being told what to do, Association living may be challenging for you. Weigh the pro's and con's and decide wisely. Don't buy and then get upset because the Association is doing what it says it is going to do.
5. Understand about fees
Find out if an increase is under discussion, when the last increase was, learn about the reserve fund, ask about any assessments planned and a history of past assessments. Compare fees to comparable associations in the area.
6. Get a copy of past meeting minutes
This can be very telling about the culture of the association you may be moving into. See what the issues are and how they are being handled. If you find the discussion is around a lot of petty items, you may want to reconsider. Also, find out if the building is professionally managed by an outside company. If so, check out the management company as well before you make a decision.
7. Is the building under-managed?
It's important that a Association is paying attention to the property and managing everything expertly. While you don't necessarily want to live somewhere with a hyperactive Association, the opposite can be worse as it will adversely affect your property values and your quality of life while you are living there.
8. Find out what kind of catastrophe insurance the Association has on the building
Find out what kind of flood, wind and other catastrophe insurance the building has.
9. Consider the impact of Association fees on your short- and long-term finances
A condo with high Association fees might end up costing you as much as the house you don't think you can afford.
You will be thankful for your Association when they prevent your neighbor from painting her house neon green, but not so much when they impose rules that you find too restrictive. Before you purchase a property subject to Association rules and fees, make sure you know exactly what you are getting into. Living in a Community Association can be perfect for you especially if you know what to expect before you move in.
About PeytonBolin, PL
Founded by partners Mauri Peyton and Jane Bolin, PeytonBolin, PL is a Florida-based law firm focused on the practice of community association law. Committed to providing resourceful, knowledgeable, and consistent representation for associations and individual owners, the entire staff operates as a team to provide the highest quality service. We bring our litigation experience and skills to each matter in a case-specific and cost-effective way. Although always prepared to litigate aggressively for our clients, we are practical problem solvers who seek solutions that avoid or minimize litigation.