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Buying a home is a big investment. Home ownership frequently includes automatic membership in a homeowners association (HOA). There are rights and obligations that come with being a member of an HOA. The information below is an attempt to give you basic understanding of what membership in an HOA may involve. To better understand what membership in a particular HOA might involve, you must review that HOA's governing documents and consider seeking the assistance of legal counsel to answer any questions

Some of the typical burdens of living in an HOA are restrictions, violations and assessments. No one wants to be told what they can and cannot do on their own property, however most communities have procedures that must be followed irregardless of how the homeowners "feels" about it. No one wants to receive a notice about their violation of an HOA rule. Owners are required to comply with all the rules and not just some of them. The board is required to act on violations in accordance to governing documents. Their job is to see that community is safe and remains a great place to live. Assessments are the most difficult burden. Most homeowners do not know or care how their dues are being spent until they are asked for more money. Each homeowner should review the annual budget and financial statements so they know how the HOA spends the funds. Reviewing these documents will show owners where they can reduce cost (example: deliver newsletters door to door instead of mailing, not damaging irrigation sprinkles heads when entering and exiting their driveways saving on replaced costs, returning required documents quickly instead of forcing extra postage and printing cost to mail the document several times. etc...) and keep their expenses to a minimum. 

1. What is an HOA?

Washington law defines an HOA as a legal entity in which each member is an owner of residential property which is subject to the HOA's jurisdiction as a result of certain recorded governing documents. The Washington Homeowners Association Act, RCW chapter 64.38, provides more information on this issue.

3. What services and amenities are provided by HOA's?

The services and amenities provided by HOA's vary greatly from community to community. Services may include amenities in common areas such as swimming pools, tennis courts, playgrounds, trails, community center or even a golf course. Some HOA's provide landscaping services which range from just common area maintenance to full front yard maintenance, other services may include parking and security services.

4. What obligation does an HOA have?

Each homeowners association is different, but the most common HOA roles include maintaining common areas and amenities, administering and enforcing CC&R's and architectural restrictions, adopting budgets and collecting assessments.

5. Am I required to be a member of the HOA?

The governing documents for an HOA make membership mandatory for all owners within the community. The HOA's governing document are essentially a legally binding contract between the owner/members and the association. If you have questions about your legal rights and obligations as a member of the HOA, you should consult an attorney.

6. How does membership in an HOA affect the ownership of my home?

By virtue of your membership in an HOA, you will have various rights and obligations as described in your governing documents. These may include restrictions on use of your property, architectural controls on future exterior improvements, obligation to pay assessments (also known as dues), parking restrictions, legal consequences for violating the CC&R's, participation as a board member and attendance at the annual meeting.

7. Who is in charge of an HOA?

HOA's are typically governed by a board of directors or board of trustees elected by the homeowners. The boards responsibilities and power will depend upon the HOA's governing documents. The Board may also hire (or be required to hire) a management consultant to manage the day to day business.

8. How does the HOA enforce the governing documents?

The governing document of an HOA typically gives a wide range of powers to enforce its covenants, rules and policies. Associations may adopt fining policies, delinquent assessment policies, and rules and regulations for violating the CC&R's. Governing documents may include the power to file a lawsuit for damages or injunctive relief for non compliant property owners; as well as legal consequences for failure to pay assessments.

9. What happens if I do not pay my HOA Assessments?

The governing documents likely give your HOA the power to place a lien on your home or take other legal action if you fail to pay properly levied assessments. If you do not bring the assessment current, this can result in a foreclosure of your home by the HOA.

10. What is the difference between an HOA and a condominium association?

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