Getting Involved in Your HOA
A homeowners' association (HOA) can bring about strong feelings from community residents. HOAs can be critical in ensuring the safety and proper functioning of a planned community. They can also frequently lead to complaints about alleged unnecessary regulations. So, what exactly does an HOA do? And how do you get involved?
An homeowners' association is a governing body for a common-interest development (CID). Its role is to create and enforce rules and regulations that govern the community. It is also responsible for maintenance and improvements.
The Vital Work of an HOA
The work of the HOA board does not typically involve life and death decisions, but it certainly does affect the quality of life for many people. There are, after all, more than 370,000 homeowners' associations in the U.S., representing more than 40 million American households.
HOAs serve both practical and humanitarian goals. From a practical standpoint, a well-run community is a more attractive place to live. An ideal HOA will have reasonable and respected regulations. This, in turn, leads to well-maintained properties that can raise property values for the entire community.
From a human standpoint, the goal of the HOA board is to have a harmonious partnership between the board and residents that maintains order, minimizes conflict, and adds to the quality of life that residents experience. This is, after all, the primary reason people move into a planned community in the first place.
HOA Board Membership
HOA board members are members of the community who are elected to serve on the board as volunteers. They may have no previous governance experience. They often hire licensed property management companies to help the HOA carry out its duties.
Membership organizations, such as the Community Associations Institute (CAI) and HOA-USA, provide useful tools for board members to learn more about their roles. These groups provide educational programming for board members, property managers, and residents.
- CAI states that it advocates for "legislation that protects community self-governance and promotes civility."
- HOA-USA provides information on the relevant laws in each state. The goal of these groups is to make community self-governance a good experience for all involved.
Depending on the structure of the organization, an HOA board can have fairly sweeping power. People typically choose to serve on the board because they want their community to be well-run and well-maintained. They want reasonable rules. They want to fix problems.
Other Volunteer Opportunities
There are almost always other ways to volunteer with your HOA other than serving on the board. Consider:
- Joining a committee
- Joining the clean-up crew, perhaps as part of an Earth Day event
- Participating in a neighborhood watch group
- Help plan events
- Volunteer for projects
Even if you have no interest in joining a board, it's important to stay involved. The best way to know what is going on in your community is to attend board meetings. While attending board meetings is not exciting, it's important.
HOAs have the power to regulate noise, cleanliness, and aesthetic requirements that are germane to a thriving CID. By proactively participating in your HOA, you can vote for qualified people to make decisions that keep your home and community safer, more beautiful, and more pleasant to live in.
It's also a great way to keep your association dues in check by ensuring that common area expenses are responsibly incurred and the CID's budget is properly safeguarded.
See FindLaw's Homeowners' Associations section for additional resources and articles.