What is an HOA Community

What is an HOA Community

This article will explain what an HOA is, how they work, and things to consider when buying in an HOA community.

If you are thinking about relocating to Florida like many other, you may have learned that 67.3% of homeowners in FL live in a Homeowners Association(HOA) community.  This makes Florida the state with the highest number of concentrated HOAs per capita of homeowners.

In this article we explain what an HOA is, what they are supposed to accomplish, the costs involved, restrictions on your property rights, and other things you will want to know.

What is a Homeowners Association (HOA)

An HOA community is a neighborhood or group of homes that are part of a homeowners association(HOA).  The HOA is a elected governing body consisting of members from the community that is created to maintain community specific covenants, conditions and restrictions(CC&R).   Part of the home buying process in Florida is getting these community CC&Rs and reviewing them prior to purchasing a home.

The HOA is typically created by the builder when a new community development is being built, and then handed over to the property owners upon completion of the development.  The HOA is there to serve the communities common interests, to help preserve the community, and to help maintain property values.  Here are some items that the HOA would typically be involved in maintaining and enforcing:

  • Landscaping
  • General Repairs & Maintenance
  • Pest Control
  • Upkeep of Amenities
  • Pet Regulations
  • Homeowner Maintenance of Their Property
  • Noise Restrictions

To maintain the community, the HOA must assess a fee to each property owner typically on a monthly basis.

Advantages of  Living in an HOA Community in Florida

Living in an HOA community offers many advantages and amenities versus a none HOA home.  In Florida many HOA communities offer things such as a community pool, clubhouse, sports complex, well maintained common grounds, security gated access, kiddie splash pads, and more.  A big advantage of an HOA community is that the HOA serves the interested of the collective property owners, which includes protecting your property values.  Neighbors are expected and forced to maintain their properties, cannot be unruly or create disturbances for the rest of the community, or act in such a way that may be a nuisance.

Disadvantages of  Living in an HOA Community in Florida

Living in an HOA community for many can be an annoyance.  You are essentially paying a governing body to tell you what you can and cannot do your own property.  These restrictions are part of the CC&R’s which homeowners must agreed to when buying in an HOA community.  As a homeowner you may be limited on paint color changes, structural changes, landscaping, pets, and may be required to do certain upkeep of your home you deem unnecessary.

Depending on the HOA and its elected officials, they may be overzealous.  A property owner may have to pressure wash their home more often then they think is reasonable, or face fines for not doing so.  These sort of disagreements are common in HOA communities.

What Are HOA Fees in Florida?

HOA fees are dues that each homeowner must pay to live within the HOA community.  You cannot opt-out of the payments, and the HOA fees are subject to change annually based on the estimated HOA budget changes.  Every year your HOA is tasked with creating a budget for the next fiscal year, which will detail a breakdown of what your HOA fees should cover.

In Florida an HOA can foreclose on your property for unpaid dues, so there is no way around paying HOA fees.

What Do My HOA Fees Cover?

HOA fees go towards paying various items that will change from community to community, but generally they cover things like common area maintenance, legal services, insurance, electricity for common areas, irrigation systems, road maintenance, pest control, tree trimming, gate maintenance and repairs, and more.  Some communities also negotiate with various venders (such as for internet, tv, or alarm systems) and then your HOA fee may cover services that go directly into your home as well.

How Much Are the HOA Fees?

HOA fees are based on each community, and their annual budget.  There is no set fixed HOA fees.  A community may have an HOA fee in the $1,000’s per month, or it may be under $100.  It really depends on the amenities the community offers, how many homes subsidize the amenities, and how well the HOA does to keep costs under control.

Some communities on golf courses may not only have extremely high HOA fees, but also membership fees.

Do HOA Fees Increase Over Time?

The HOA fee is the actual cost of maintaining the community.  As such, it’s logical that HOA fees will increase over time.  The cost of maintaining the community will likely continually on the rise, and so HOA fees will follow those increases in costs.  Sometimes an HOA fee may decrease if some large savings are found from one year to another, but generally its a safe bet to assume your HOA fees will increase over time.

Are Renters Responsible for the HOA Fee or the Landlord

Similar to property taxes, the owner of the property is the responsible party for the HOA fees.  The landlord and the tenant may have agreed in the lease that the tenant is responsible for the HOA fees, but in the eyes of the HOA the burden lies with the Landlord.    The HOA will pursue the property owner if the dues are not timely paid, and the risk of foreclosure falls onto the property owner ass well.

What if I cannot pay my HOA fees?

Your HOA fees are mandatory, and thus there will be repercussions if you stop paying your dues.  Every HOA will handle their unpaid dues differently, but generally you would first receive a notice of the late dues.  After that, the HOA may:

  • Restrict your access to amenities of the community
  • Foreclose on your property
  • Your debt may be sent to collections
  • You may be assessed late fees
  • The HOA may file a lien against your property

Do HOAs Have Rental Restrictions?

Some HOAs do have rental restrictions, and others do not.  In Florida it is common that an HOA will have some sort of rental restrictions, mostly to prevent AirBNB rentals.  A community may allow rentals if the lease is 1-year, or they may allow up to two rentals annually.  If you want to learn about the rental restrictions of a particular community, you will need to get a copy of their CC&R’s.

Are There Other Fees in an HOA?

HOAs can also impose special assessments on its residents.  These are fees that need to be paid for something that was not planned, but necessary.   An example of a special assessment could be an elevator that stopped working prematurely before its useful expected life.  When these special assessments occur, they can often times be a very large expense.  If you are buying in an HOA community, be sure there are no special assessments currently that need to be paid by the homeowner, or any coming in the near future that you aren’t aware of.

The Bottom Line on HOAs and How They Work

HOAs are there to serve the community and provide homeowners with stability in the maintenance of the common grounds and amenities.  While some HOAs do a great job, others may not.  It comes down to the elected board.  Many people love HOAs, and others prefer to live outside of an HOA community.  It comes down to preference.

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