By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
How many times have you heard the sales pitch that buying into a townhouse community with either a homeowners’ or condo association means you will have affordable, carefree living?
While older townhouse neighborhoods in some parts of the country are owned as entirely separate units, with each owner responsible for maintaining his or her own home, inside and out, new townhouses are almost always part of a mandatory Association Governed Residential Community.
The Association collects assessments from all owners, and uses that money to maintain some level of services, which varies by community. Some HOAs are responsible for neighborhood maintenance such as keeping roads and storm drainage in good condition, arranging for trash collection, or maintaining common amenities such as a shared pool. Others handle collective maintenance of exterior surfaces such as roofs and siding or stucco. And some even manage landscape services, lawn care, and shoveling snow from the sidewalks.
But keep in mind, while you may not have to actually have to do the work, you will pay for others to do it for you. The more services the HOA or COA is obligated to provide, the more each homeowner must pay for those services through their assessments.
Furthermore, decisions about what work needs to be done, who will do the work, and how much it will cost are all left up to the Association’s Board of Directors or Trustees. Generally, unless the Board proposes to make a material change -i.e. Add an improvement that does not currently exist – there will not be a poll or vote of members to obtain input or arrive at consensus.
Today’s featured news report provides a real life example of just how your Association’s maintenance decisions can create an unpredictable, unrealistic financial burden for homeowners.
Just imagine getting an invoice from your Condo Association or HOA demanding $30,000 to replace the siding on all of the townhouses. It happened to these homeowners at Eagle Ridge Condos in West Orange, New Jersey.
Condo Board President Lashes Out At NJ Homeowners Over Surprise Maintenance Bills
I’m sure homeowners would like to know why their $500 to $800 per month maintenance fees are not sufficient. And is the price of the new siding contract competitive and reasonable? Does it have to be done right away? Can the work be done over several years?
But, as is typical in these situations, there is at least one Board member that sees no reason to offer an explanation. It’s his way or the highway. Pay up or the COA will put a lien on your house, and possibly even foreclose on that lien.
Suddenly, townhouse living is not so affordable or carefree.