Help! For Homeowners New to Association Living
It took longer than you expected to sell your home and find the perfect location to downsize, but here you are. Your new home meets all of your goals relating to location, amenities and conveniences. It is so exciting and you waste no time adding a few warming touches. First, you paint the front door Wedgewood blue, which seems to be appropriate in this gardenlike setting. Next you add a new wreath to the door and, finally, your favorite lamp-bearing statues to the front garden. It is impressive how much more welcoming your home now appears. So, imagine your surprise when a most unwelcoming letter arrives just three days later stating that your home is “in violation”! The letter states that the color of your door and the newly-mounted wreath are non-compliant and the garden in which you placed your statues is actually something called common area and must be removed! When you call the number on the letter, the customer service specialist reminds you that you have purchased a home in a community association. A bell goes off as you remember the large notebook you received titled Restrictive Terrace Condominium Association. You locate it among the closing documents and begin reading it and quickly realize that it may have been a mistake not to use the week prior to settlement to review this information.
Sound familiar? It happens more often than you know. Purchasing a home in a community association has many benefits , including deed restrictions that govern the community with which every owner should be familiar. It is a lifestyle choice that should be taken seriously when considering this home purchase option. Just a little preparation can ensure that you make a well informed decision.
Here are a few things you’ll need to consider:
• Governing Documents (Articles of Incorporation, Declaration, Bylaws, etc.) These are documents that determine how the association is organized and operated. They include helpful information about definitions, governance, budget, preparation, maintenance, and use restrictions.
• Rules & Regulations and Architectural Guidelines. These are usually more specific than the general provisions in the above-described documents.
• Assessments. These are fee that must be paid to the association to cover common interest expenses. It is possible that a home belongs to more than one association (master or umbrella association and specific community association), resulting in multiple assessments.
• Board of Directors. The association has a governing body referred to as the board of directors who are usually volunteers appointed or elected to govern the affairs o the community. Or, it could be composed of developer representatives, or some developer representatives and some homeowners, if the community is still under development.
• Management Company. Most community associations are managed by a professional management company, the responsibility for which is to manage the day-to-day operations of the association. The manager and management staff can be very beneficial in helping you understand association living.
• Get Involved. There are many opportunities for you to volunteer and participate in operation of the association. Make it a point to attend board meetings and volunteer when possible. The more productive and cooperative volunteers an association has, the more successful it is.
Community association living offers a wonderful lifestyle. Being an informed association member can make it an even more enjoyable and rewarding experience for you.