Purchasing a new home is a very exciting time and one that requires an enormous amount of thought and consideration. Not only does the home itself require thoughtful consideration but the neighborhood in which you live is equally as important. Living in a community association requires some education about the various obligations and requirements as well as the benefits.
Let's start with the obvious benefits...
- Protection of property values
- Architectural control over property improvements
- Various amenities (clubhouse, pools, tot lots, tennis courts, etc)
- Organized community functions
Depending upon the community in which you live, there may also be:
Community associations are quite popular and most people have some sense that they have to pay a monthly or quarterly assessment but people don't always realize that they may have to seek prior approval before making an exterior improvement to their home. There is generally an approval process whereby an application is completed with the various details outlining what the improvement will look like upon completion. There are guidelines in the legal documents that establish the timeframe for approval by either the Board or a specific committee.
While most people realize that there is a regular assessment, not very many people understand what this is for and why they have to pay it. It is important to keep in mind that the Association is a business and must function as one. The assessments pay for the daily operating expenses of the Association which may include but not be limited to:
- audit and tax returns
- landscaping maintenance
- regulatory fees
- reserve contributions
- snow removal
If your association has any amenities, there are fees related to the upkeep of these features as well. Each year when the budget is completed, you should carefully review this information to ensure you have an understanding about the expenses incurred and obligations of the Association. Feel free to ask questions so that you have a proper understanding about the assessments.
Homeowners sometimes forget that those who are serving on the Board do so to the benefit of the Association. In a developing community, the Board may consist of Declarant representatives who are there to make decisions regarding the policies and procedures of the Association that not only help the Association function in a healthy state but also to insure their multi-million dollar investment is protected as well. Most of the time, Developers share a similar interest in the community as do homeowners in that they want the appearance of the Community to remain attractive. There are various obligations that the Developer must adhere to and this can sometimes cause confusion or concern by the homeowners. It is important for homeowners to be educated about the development process and understand that this can be a lengthy transition period until homeowner control of the Board takes place and even beyond, as the responsibilities of the Developer are met in accordance with local and state statutes.
Once a Board transitions to homeowner control whereas all of the members on the Board are now homeowners, it remains important for people to be educated about the process. As noted above, the Board sets the policies and procedures for the Association in accordance with the governing documents and state statutes. It can be difficult for Boards to conduct business when homeowners do not take the time to understand the process that must be followed.
In summary, there are a few specific things that homeowners can do to fulfill their responsibilities as an owner in a community association: pay your monthly/quarterly assessments in a timely fashion and be familiar with the policies and procedures that govern your association. And always, be respectful of those who are trying to help make your community a great place to live!!