Q: What is a homeowners association?
A: Homeowners associations (HOAs) are organizations which deal with the upkeep of a neighborhood's common areas and establish standards of acceptable behavior for a community. While they all share a common purpose, the level of activity HOAs undertake and other characteristics vary somewhat from case to case, depending on state and local laws and traditions. Autumn Oaks HOA (AO) is run by a board, which is made up of volunteers elected by fellow owners. Depending on the size of the neighborhood and how extensive a role the board takes, a board may be organized into committees. The AO board has officers being secretary, treasurer, president and vice president. AO board meetings follow formal rules and set agendas. Some matters may need a vote by all the HOA members to decide, while others only require a vote of the board.
Q: How is AO run?
A: AO is a non-profit organization and is incorporated. The Articles of Incorporation are generally the most important document, and take precedence over all others. These articles establish the existence of the HOA. Specifics are generally spelled out in either the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions or the Bylaws. This will include election procedures for the board. Documents will describe what the board can do on its own, what it needs the approval of the homeowners to do. AO is a self managed community and must be in compliance with the governing documents and state laws.
Q: What are the typical duties of a homeowners association?
A: Looking after common property involves mowing the grass, repaving streets, cleaning up dead trees and similar tasks. In some neighborhoods, HOA management will also involve upkeep for common buildings, tennis court, basketball court, Bocce Ball court and playground equipment. The HOA is also responsible for ensuring residents follow regulations, such as property appearance or building fences. See Board Member Duties and their Fiduciary Responsibilities.
Q: What types of things can homeowners associations regulate?
A: An HOA's exact responsibilities and powers can be determined by consulting its governing documents, such as the Articles of Incorporation, covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws. Parts of these will describe the workings of the HOA itself, but the rest describes what it can do, when and how. Its authority may cover things like the maintenance and upkeep standards owners are expected to meet as members of the HOA. Part of living in the community typically includes agreeing to keep a home, its lawn and surrounding property in good condition. Rules may limit new construction, so residents likely need permission if they wish to install a swimming pool, erect a fence or build an addition. Standards may apply to driveways, landscaping and other aspects of a property.
Q: How do HOA boards enforce rules?
A: While limited to some extent by state and local laws, HOA rules and regulations are also supported by them. This means that becoming a member involves entering into a legally binding contract. As long as the HOA stays within its authority and its governing documents comply with state and local laws, courts will usually uphold their actions if an issue gets that far. While rules are officially set in documents, the HOA can usually change them through a member vote or similar procedure, so there is recourse if a particular restriction or bylaw seems unfair. Disciplinary actions by an HOA are typically in the form of fines, but in more serious cases may go as far as a lien on the property. For a sufficient offense, the HOA may even be able to foreclose on a home, depending on its rules. See the Homeowner's Rights.