The HOA is a formal legal organization created by members of a neighborhood for the purpose of addressing common issues of the neighborhood, and enforcing any restrictions that apply to that particular residential area.
Developments that have common interests, like planned-unit developments, commonly form a homeowners association at the time the development is built. Usually, the developer records any restrictive covenants on all of the properties within the development prior to selling any units, so that these restrictions "run with the land" (apply to any subsequent owners), which form the homeowners association. These types of communities where a homeowners association is prevalent are found in:
- Town home developments
- Cooperative apartments
- Newer single-family subdivisions
Typically, owners are allowed to vote in elections to choose board members for the association. These members are responsible for:
- Collecting fees from homeowners
- Maintaining common areas of the development
- Enforcing the association’s restrictions (for example, rules regarding construction, maintenance or appearance of homes)
Many people who belong to homeowners associations do not fully understand the power these groups may have over the owners. In the event that you are in conflict with the HOA, you should still pay what the association says you owe, and then contact a real estate lawyer to advise you of your rights and the appropriate actions to take. At least by paying the fees, you can avoid HOA fines, liens or costly court fees, since any payments you make go toward the outstanding balance.