Can You Refuse to Join a Homeowners Association?

Looking to buy in a community with an HOA? Here’s what you need to know about your membership options.

So you’ve found your dream home, but it happens to be in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association, commonly known as an HOA. There are plenty of rules and regulations you’ll have to follow as a homeowner in these communities—not to mention the dues you’ll have to pay. When considering whether the property is worth the costs, you might wonder whether you’re required to become a member in the first place. The short answer? You probably do.

It’s very important to consult a real estate agent or an attorney to understand your rights as a buyer under an HOA particularly because the rules vary greatly based on state, region from one community to the next.

How HOAs Work

An HOA is an organization that oversees a small area or neighborhood, operating much like a small local city government. Each HOA has its own set of covenants, conditions, and restrictions, which are often referred to as CC&Rs. An elected board of HOA members set and enforce those CC&Rs, but not every decision is completely up to them. 

Homeowners have the right to attend and speak at HOA meetings, vote on HOA matters, access HOA documents, and ensure the HOA is acting in accordance with its governing documents and local laws. If a homeowner believes their HOA is not acting appropriately, they can potentially take legal action against the HOA.

Additionally, rule changes and amendments to by-laws are sometimes dependent on the approval of a set percentage of homeowners who live within the HOA’s territory.

When you join an HOA community, you pay dues in exchange for access to certain services and amenities such as community pools, gyms, and parks. You might also gain access to security and a gated entrance to the community because of these dues. 

Another key benefit of an HOA is that those in charge are also looking to preserve certain aesthetics within the neighborhood, so you won’t have to worry about your neighbor getting away with not mowing their lawn all summer, painting their home purple, etc. The flip side, of course, is that you must also follow sometimes strict rules regarding everything from landscaping to home decor and pet policies.

The key benefit of living in a community with an HOA is the peace of mind that comes from knowing your property values are maintained, that common areas are taken care of, and that certain standards for quality of life are upheld. Furthermore, by pooling resources through shared dues, homeowners can potentially enjoy amenities like community pools or fitness centers at a reduced rate.

Are You Required to Join Your HOA?

Unfortunately, you cannot refuse to join a Homeowners Association.

If you purchase a home or condo that is subject to recorded CC&Rs, then you have effectively agreed to be subject to those rules and governance by the HOA.

In fact, refusing to pay dues or abide by the HOA’s rules could lead to some serious consequences and a HOA will typically start by fining a resident who fails to pay or follow the rules. 

These fines and penalties can accrue over time and the HOA can sue the homeowner for breach of contract, because the CC&Rs are seen as a contract among the homeowners. This can result in a judgment being recorded against the homeowner’s property and could eventually lead to foreclosure by the HOA.

Over the years we have had several clients who have opted not to view homes within HOAs for fear of having to abide by their rules. Living outside of an HOA is the only way to avoid fees and rules unless membership in the HOA is voluntary. 

When you purchase a home within a community that has a Homeowners Association, membership is typically mandatory. A few neighborhoods in Central Ohio have established voluntary HOAs, more on this below.

But these voluntary HOAs are the exception rather than the norm and knowing you won’t have an option not to join most HOAs, you’ll want to be sure you go over all of the CC&Rs in place before closing on a home in one of these communities. When buying into an HOA, it’s important that you understand what you are agreeing to. Prior to purchasing a home in an HOA you will want to review the documents that outline the financial health of the HOA, including its operating budget, amortization schedule and cash reserves as well as providing all documents covenants.

Unique Circumstances

There are a couple of circumstances that would allow you to refuse to become a member of an HOA—the first being that the HOA formed after you purchased your home. 

In some situations, there are HOA rules that specifically make membership voluntary. In those communities, joining is up to you, but you’ll likely forfeit access to certain services or amenities if you choose not to officially join and pay dues. For this reason, many home buyers opt only for homes without such governing bodies in place. This is the best way to avoid joining an HOA.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to skirt certain HOA rules you don’t like, so be sure to review all of the community’s CC&Rs before committing to a purchase. In rare circumstances, you might be able to ask the board for a waiver to a rule, but you’re not guaranteed to get your way.  

We do not advise anyone going into such a purchase to buy with the reliance on the belief that the rules can be modified for them and them alone and if such an offer is made, be certain to get it in writing prior to closing.

So if you’re planning to store your boat in your driveway, paint your home bright orange, install solar panels on your front roof, or fence in your front yard, think again.

“The primary drawbacks or limitations associated with HOAs are related to their enforcement of rules and regulations. “While some may consider these restrictions to be helpful in maintaining community standards, they can also be overly restrictive for some homeowners who want more freedom to express themselves through their property and lifestyle choices.

If you, or someone you know is considering Buying or Selling a Home in Columbus, Ohio please call 614.332.6984 or email us and we’d be happy to assist you!

The Opland Group Specializes in Real Estate Sales, Luxury Home Sales, Short Sales in; Bexley 43209 Columbus 43201 43206 43214 43215 Delaware 43015 Downtown Dublin 43016 43017 Gahanna 43219 43230 Grandview Heights 43212 Galena 43021 Hilliard 43026 Lewis Center 43035 New Albany 43054 Pickeringto, 43147 Polaris Powell 43065 Upper Arlington 43220 43221 Westerville 43081 43082 Worthington 43235

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