A homeowners’ association (HOA) offers several perks that make living in one enjoyable. However, residents have obligations to the HOA to maintain its quality and keep the community functioning at its highest level.
When purchasing a home in an HOA, you sign a legal agreement to follow community rules and fulfill your duties as a homeowner. While every HOA operates differently, there are consequences if you don’t hold up your end of the agreement, including paying your HOA fees or assessments. Here’s why HOA dues are so important and what happens when you don’t pay your HOA fees on time.
What Are HOA Fees and Assessments?
HOA fees, also sometimes called assessments, are the monthly, quarterly, or yearly dues that homeowners are responsible for paying the association. Fees provide the monies needed to carry out the community’s responsibilities, like maintaining shared spaces, saving for future repairs and improvements, and enforcing community guidelines.
What Do HOA Fees Cover?
The HOA fees paid by homeowners cover a range of operating expenses, regular maintenance, and development projects that enhance the overall community experience. These fees are typically used for:
- Community landscaping. Your HOA fees may pay for landscaping services in common areas, including lawn care and tree trimming.
- Maintenance and repairs. Maintaining HOA buildings and spaces keeps the association performing at its best. This may include regular inspections, service to HVAC systems, and maintaining community roads.
- Amenities and services. Many associations offer community amenities and services, such as an exclusive pool, fitness center, playground, and on-site security. Your HOA fees may cover the cost of these services.
- HOA insurance. Some HOAs use homeowner fees to pay for insurance that covers common spaces. These policies provide protection to the HOA.
- Municipal services. HOA fees may also fund municipal services, like trash removal, sewage, and water. However, this will vary depending on the association and location.
- Reserve funds. While your HOA board of directors can plan for most expenses, unexpected repairs and emergency maintenance costs may arise during the year. Part of your HOA fee likely goes towards a reserve fund that your association can use for these sudden payments.
Reserves are critically important for all associations. Read "8 Essential Things You Need To Know About Reserve Funds & Studies" to learn more.
What Happens If I Don’t Pay HOA Fees?
Because HOA fees are vital for your community to thrive, you’ll likely face consequences if you don’t do your part. Here are some outcomes that may happen if you fail to pay your HOA fees.
1. You could receive violation notices.
Typically, the first thing that happens when you miss a payment is receiving a violation notice from your association. An HOA violation letter is sent to notify you of:
- Your late HOA fee payment
- What you need to do to make your account current
- What the next steps will be if you skip another payment
Depending on your HOA’s enforcement process, you may receive the notice by mail or email, and if non-payment persists, a second warning.
Send a professional violation letter in minutes. Download our free HOA violation letter template now!
2. You may be called into a hearing.
Failing to pay your HOA fees is unfair to other homeowners and can put financial hardships on the association. If residents don’t respond to warnings and their fees are left unpaid, the board may notify the homeowner of a non-compliance hearing. During this hearing, the board will decide how to move forward. Because every community operates differently, it’s crucial for you to check your governing documents or consult an attorney if you’re unsure about your next steps.
3. You might be fined.
For residents who don’t make efforts to get their HOA fees back on track, the HOA board could apply fines for late or unpaid dues. They may also charge interest on any delinquent payments until your dues are current, which can add up quickly.
4. You may lose amenity rights.
Across many communities, those who are delinquent or fail to pay HOA dues may be restricted from using the amenities. The association may only allow access to shared areas, including the swimming pool, fitness center, and clubhouse, once you’re caught up with your HOA fees.
5. A lien could be placed on your home.
Depending on federal, local, and state laws and regulations, if a homeowner still hasn’t complied or responded to notices and consequences, the next step may be a lien on their home. The lien on the property prevents the home from being sold until that lien is removed.
6. You could be foreclosed upon.
The most serious consequence of non-payment is a foreclosure on your home. While some areas have restrictions on HOAs foreclosing on a home, you may live in an area that allows foreclosures for failing to pay association dues.
To help you stay on top of your responsibilities as a homeowner, it’s a good idea to review your HOA’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) to see how your association enforces rules and what you can expect for late fees and other HOA violations. If you’re in a tough financial position, it’s best to speak with your HOA board to see if they can work with you on a payment plan rather than letting the issue escalate.
Everything HOA Residents Need to Know About Fees & Assessments
HOA residents enjoy the best community features and amenities because they contribute to the association through HOA fees. But how are these fees calculated? What are the average HOA fees? Are HOA fees tax deductible? For answers and more in-depth details on HOA fees, check out our ebook, “Everything HOA Residents Need To Know About Assessments.”