Get to know your homeowners association | Just Ask Jan

By John L. Scott | Kingston broker Jan Zufelt

Dear Jan: We are selling our home on acreage and moving into town where we will have less property to maintain. We know what neighborhood we want to live in. We have just learned that there is a homeowners association. Does that mean we have rules that we have to live by? Thanks — ACY

Dear ACY: Congrats on the time you gain back from not having to maintain your acreage. Some homeowners associations (HOAs) do have what are referred to as “CC&Rs.” Those letters stand for Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. Some HOAs only have bylaws, which are guidelines for how the HOA operates. CC&Rs give more specific rules to live by.

Some CC&Rs might disallow boats or campers from being stored in the open or parked on the street. One might disallow vehicles from being parked outside a garage overnight, or perhaps require that garbage cans be stored behind a fence. Each HOA is different, so you need to see the title report to see what is recorded for that particular property. A real estate broker can get you a copy of the report or the rules in the early stages of shopping for a home.

Some HOAs have yearly dues to pay for things like maintenance of neighborhood swimming pools, common areas, beach access, etc. As to whether you must live by the rules, the answer would be a strong “yes.” If you break the rules, the HOA can act against you. It could file a lien against your property. If you are behind in dues, the HOA can charge you interest and, in some cases, can foreclose on you. You need to know if a rule is mandatory or optional. Ask questions and get answers.

I don’t want to scare you off. HOAs are in many cases a good thing. For example, many HOAs disallow junk cars from being stored on property. Junk cars can be an eyesore and could affect your resale value later. One should go to their HOA yearly meeting to vote on rule changes or additions. (There has to a joke in here somewhere about a pink flamingo.)

Best wishes living close to town. I do, and I love it. — Jan

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