By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Today I want to clear up some confusion about homeowner associations compared to neighborhood associations. Sometimes you will find that people describe both types of associations as similar. But nothing could be further from the truth.
To use a common analogy, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
As an example, here’s an interesting article from a local newspaper in Mississippi.
City residents promote neighborhoods with associations
Note the following characteristics of a homeowners’ association (HOA):
- Membership is mandatory, and includes all property owners. Non-owners who are residents (including tenants) cannot be members of the HOA.
- Membership is essentially perpetual and attaches to the lot, not the person(s) who own that lot.
- Each member is required to pay annual and special assessments, usually without regard to the quality or timeliness of maintenance services provided, and regardless of whether a member agrees with any future amendments to the CC&Rs.
- The Association dictates and has the authority to enforce various rules that affect (restrict) the use of your private property, with an emphasis on maintaining a certain level of attractiveness (subject to interpretation), and prevention of common nuisances.
- There is common “ownership” or common interest. There are easements and an obligation of owners to maintain all common areas. This common interest creates legal and financial liabilities for each member.
- A supermajority of lot owners – usually exceeding two-thirds – must vote to approve terminating the association. Sometimes the lot owners must approve substantial increases in assessments.
By Contrast, a neighborhood association has the following characteristics:
- Membership is entirely voluntary.
- Any resident of a neighborhood can join, including tenants.
- There is no common “ownership” or common interest, and therefore no requirement to pay maintenance fees.
- The Association can be dissolved at any time, depending upon the level of interest in membership.
- The emphasis is on cooperative relationships, civic engagement, and social interaction among neighbors.
- There are no property use restrictions in a truly voluntary neighborhood association (not to be confused with a historical association, a separate group that does have use restrictions, but no maintenance assesssments or common interest).
Next time you read an article conflating HOAs with Neighborhood Associations, keep all of the above in mind. Think about what type of association should be promoted, and don’t fall for the sales pitch that HOAs “protect property values” and provide social interaction. Any voluntary association can provide social activities without the additional restrictions and obligations imposed by a mandatory homeowners association.