HOA Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Homeowners Association?
A Homeowners Association, also known as a Common Interest Development (CID) or a community association, is a non-profit organization that oversees the upkeep of a neighborhood’s common areas and establishes general rules and standards for the community. Homeowners associations are established with the intent of protecting community assets and establishing a code of conduct for owners and residents, while instituting proper and sound financial management practices.
Who makes decisions on behalf of the Homeowners Association?
Decisions concerning homeowner association operations are made by a Board of Directors, which is made up of volunteers who are initially appointed by the developer and thereafter elected by the community’s residents during the annual membership meeting. The Board appoints officers and depending on the number of units or homes in the association will usually determine how extensive a role the Board takes. The Board may appoint a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and member-at-large and in many cases the By-Laws allow for one person to hold more than one office. Additionally, the Board may appoint other owners to serve on committees to assist with the operations. Examples include: Landscaping, Finance and Budgeting, Maintenance, Social, and Architectural Committees.
What are the Board of Directors responsible for?
The Board of Directors are responsible for making most operating and enforcement decisions on behalf of the homeowners’ association. These decisions include but are not limited to: establishing budgets, preparing reserve studies and enforcing the collection of assessments; making sure contracts are in place for the maintenance of the common area and vendors are providing the work they were contracted for; having proper insurance for the association, and establishing and enforcing the rules and regulations.
What are the Governing Documents of the Association?
The Governing Documents are documents that help to govern the powers, rights, and responsibilities of the Board of Directors of the Association and the Owners. These documents will include Articles of Incorporation for incorporated associations; By-Laws; CC&R’s which stands fort Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, and sometimes called the Declaration or Declaration of Restrictions; and the Rules and Regulations.
What types of housing communities are run by Homeowners Associations?
The general term that a homeowners’ association or Community Association refers to is a Common Interest Subdivision or Common Interest Development. These pertain to any development where there is some property owned exclusively and some property owned in common by owners in the development. They include Condominium Projects, Planned Unit Developments-usually made up of single-family homes, Stock Cooperatives, and Community Apartment Projects.
Note: Although homeowners associations refer to residential property; a common interest property can also include commercial or office space and are governed similarly to a homeowners’ association.
What is my role as a homeowner?
All homeowners should assume responsibility to protect property values and secure a lifestyle that all residents can enjoy. As a member of your community association, your legal responsibilities to the community association include: complying with the governing documents, rules and regulations, architectural guidelines, policies and procedures, and paying the monthly assessment necessary to operate the community association. Should you wish to influence the direction of the association it is advisable that you volunteer to serve on the Board of Directors.
Do I have to pay the monthly assessment if I belong to the community association?
Yes, all homeowners owning a unit or lot within a community association automatically become a member of that community association and are required to pay the monthly assessment. The monthly assessment covers all of the costs associated with operating a community association.
What does my monthly assessment pay for?
The assessment covers the operating expenses that the community association is legally responsible for. Typical expenses include: insurance, water and sewer, gas and electricity, landscaping services, street sweeping, janitorial, pest control, pool and spa, elevator, maintenance and management. Assessments also cover the funding of reserves, which are funds accumulated to pay for future repair or replacement of major components for which the community association is responsible. These include: water heater replacements and plumbing, roofing, painting, street repairs, pool and spa, elevator upgrades, and clubhouse refurbishment.
Have additional questions about what a Homeowner Association does or how APS can help your community? Please contact us.
What is the role of a management company?
The daily workload for maintaining the association is often very time consuming for a volunteer Board of Directors. A management company is an independent firm that assists the Board in the daily functions some of which include: handling financial operations and enforcing collection policies, maintenance and overseeing vendors, helping the board to stay in compliance with the governing documents and laws, handling notices and correspondence to the owners, act as homeowner liaison and providing routine inspections of the property.
The scope of services provided by a management company varies based on the needs of each Homeowners Association. At Associated Professional Services, we provide a customized management service catered to each association which includes: financial, accounting and collection services, administrative services on an as needed basis, refinance and resale services and full community management.
Are HOA rules legally binding?
Yes, HOA rules are legally binding. The HOA can potentially fine or file a lawsuit against an owner who violates any restriction, covenant, or rule, as well as hold the owner responsible for any attorney’s fees or costs incurred by the HOA in enforcing that rule.
Can an HOA change rules after purchasing a home?
A Board of Directors can change the rules at any time upon following applicable procedures. The rules and regulations are usually outlined in the development’s Bylaws and/or CC&Rs.
Can you change HOA rules?
HOA rules are changes by the Board of Directors, not any one homeowner. All rules and regulations are outlined in the community’s Bylaws and/or CC&Rs.
Can police enforce HOA rules?
Police are not responsible for enforcing HOA rules, however they can be called to intervene when there is loud noise or physical violence coming from a unit.
What happens if you break HOA rules?
If an owner breaks an HOA rule they will receive a violation notice, and if not corrected, the owner may be fined, suspended from using the community’s facilities, or in rare cases, sued.
Can an HOA limit pets?
Yes, an HOA can limit pets – the rules are usually spelled out in the Rules and Regulations. In California, however, there are certain state laws that prohibit associations from prohibiting pets.
Can I be forced to join an HOA?
The only way you can become part of an HOA is when you buy a unit that is part of an Association. Owners are not usually forced to buy a unit in an Association, but once they do they are a member of that Homeowners Association until they sell.
Do HOA fees ever go away?
HOA fees and assessments do not ever go away unless the association was formed for architectural guidelines only or has been dissolved.
Do renters or owners pay HOA fees?
Owners are charged HOA fees and are responsible for paying them each month. Some owners choose to have their tenants pay the fees, but if there are any delinquencies the owner is responsible and collection action goes against the homeowner, not the renter.
What happens if you don't pay your HOA fees?
If an owner does not pay their assessments, the owner will receive late notices, a pre-lien notice, and ultimately, the Board of Directors can vote to foreclose on the property.
Are HOA fees mandatory?
Yes, HOA fees and assessments are mandatory and must be paid if someone buys a unit in an Association.
What areas are best to focus on if you're trying to reduce your HOA spend?
The biggest expenses Associations typically face are Insurance, Water and Sewer, and landscaping.
Another area that typically causes high expenses are repairs due to water leaks and damages. To prevent this, HOAs are encouraged to buy insurance with as high a deductible as possible and to install low watering, low-maintenance plants. It’s also important to make sure owners are reporting leaks as soon as they see them, and to get them fixed as soon as possible.
Do you manage communities with 225 or more units?
What is the largest community you have managed?
The largest community we have managed is 876 units.
How many properties does each manager at APS maintain?
Our managers are assigned associations based on the needs of their combined associations. For instance, managers who work on-site at an association often only have that one account to manage. We typically limit the number of associations any one manager handles to eight – with many of those being smaller associations.
How long does a manager typically stay with one property?
It depends on the property and the manager; for instance, we have managers that have handled a particular property for more than 10 years. We cross-train and provide assistants that become familiar with each property, and in the event of turnover or advancement, a new manager can easily step in and take over with no disruption to the service.
Does your company provide community website access for associations?
Yes, our websites are semi-customizable and we are able to include a variety of features, including clubhouse reservations and the like. You can see one of our association’s websites at www.cltioa.com. We always work with the website company to help develop and create the site you envision for your association.
Should your company be selected as our HOA management partner, what should our expectations be for your handling of resident/renter needs via offsite support?
APS will develop a system that meets your expectations. We typically suggest that renters first contact their owners to make them aware of any issues, and would recommend that owners contact our office. Owners will be able to contact our office or manager by phone or email 24/7. For non-emergency issues and issues that require Board input, owners will be asked to put their comments in writing and their concerns will be presented at the next Board meeting if applicable.
How do you manage maintenance issues, such as replacement of common area carpets, landscaping, general maintenance, etc.?
Associated Professional Services utilizes its extensive list of vendors to solicit bids on your associations’ behalf for specific projects. We use only vendors that have done a good job for our other associations, and vendors are removed from the referral list if they have received poor feedback. We are not affiliated with any particular vendor and do not receive or accept any commissions from vendors, nor do we own our own maintenance company; therefore, your association can be sure you are getting competitive bids and that no unnecessary work is being done.
Your manager will assist in preparing the scope of work and obtaining bids, and once accepted, will schedule and monitor the progress of the work. For ongoing maintenance issues, you can approve a dollar amount that the manager is authorized to spend without Board approval on any particular maintenance project. Existing maintenance contractors will be monitored to make sure they are performing to your satisfaction.
How do you manage and maintain records of repairs?
Records for your association are kept on our premises unless an association requests them to be otherwise. At the end of the year, files are cleaned out and placed in large envelopes with each envelope labeled with its contents and stored on-site. Periodically, files for a particular year are placed in a file box and stored off-site at a storage facility. All boxes are labeled by year and have a bar code to identify them. We can ask for a box or boxes at any time the records need to be reviewed.
How do you enforce HOA community rules and regulations?
We usually start out with a friendly note to bring the violation of the rules or CC&R’s to the violator’s attention. Usually, this friendly note is enough to get people to comply. In some cases, where we have more of an on-site presence we may simply let them know in person. If we do not receive compliance within a designated period of time a violation letter is sent giving them a certain amount of time to comply or they will be fined according to your enforcement policy.
If the violation continues, we will send a letter informing them of the potential fine and to invite them to a hearing which is usually held at a regularly scheduled Board meeting. If the Board votes to fine them, we send a letter informing them of the fine. If the violation continues, the process is repeated. Owners with accumulated unpaid fines may be taken to small claims court wherein our experienced judges have been upholding the fines in the association’s favor.
Have you helped communities increase the level of resident ownership through resident owner incentive/purchase programs?
Although this is not something an association or management company has too much control over, we had a situation where an association had several renters vandalizing and selling drugs in the complex. We convinced the Board to hire a full-time armed guard service for a period of time. Shortly thereafter, the drug dealers and vandalism were gone and the reputation of the association has been excellent for over 10 years. There are now many more owners in the association than there had been.
Additionally, ways that we have found to increase owner-occupancy is to have well-maintained buildings; attractive landscaping; amenities; residents who abide by the rules, including renters; and in general cultivating a nice place to live.
Do HOA board members get paid?
Generally, HOA Board of Directors are unpaid volunteers who choose to sit on the Board voluntarily. Some may receive reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses associated with Board membership, however.
Does an HOA have to have a board?
An HOA is always run by a Board of Directors that are voted in by the homeowners at an annual meeting.
Can HOA board members be held personally liable?
HOA volunteer Board members cannot be held personally liable for actions voted on at a meeting. Personal liability could apply if a Board Member is found to commit an illegal action or actions in regard to the Association.
Is retaining the services of an attorney important for every homeowner's association?
It is not necessary for all associations to retain an attorney, particularly small associations. Some larger Associations may choose to have an attorney on retainer, but it is not necessary or required.
Can an HOA evict a homeowner?
No, an HOA cannot evict a homeowner or a tenant. Only the landlord or owner of the property can evict a tenant. However, an owner’s unit can be foreclosed upon for not paying their fees.
Can an HOA force you to sell your home?
No, an HOA cannot force anyone to sell their unit.
What is the difference between HOA bylaws and covenants?
HOA bylaws are essentially guidelines for the operation of the HOA. The Bylaws define the duties of the various offices of the Board of Directors, the terms of the Directors, required meetings and notices of meetings, elections, and the principal office of the Association, as well as other specific items that are necessary to run the Association as a business.
Covenants (CC&R’s -Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) are legally binding documents that are recorded with the County Recorder, and pertain to the use of the property and what the Association is responsible for maintaining and how; it also includes how the assessments are billed.
How can I get rid of my HOA?
No one person can get rid of an HOA. An HOA can be dissolved under certain circumstances, such as a fire, and if all the houses have been destroyed and not rebuilt.
Can I fight my HOA?
An owner can dispute actions by the board by attending meetings or writing letters. Actual change by an owner can be made by serving on the Board of Directors.
What should the Homeowner/Property Owner do if they receive a Violation Notice?
Upon receiving a violation notice, a homeowner should immediately contact the association and ask for a face-to-face meeting, and let them know that they will comply and by when. Once the violation has been corrected, send notification saying it has been corrected. If you dispute the violation, then a letter should be sent stating why.