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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 requirements in terms of 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 an unwelcome 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 that you must remove your statues because the garden in which you placed your statues is actually something called a common area! 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, quickly realizing 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 might think. 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 if you're considering buying a home in a managed community. Just a little preparation can ensure that you make a well-informed decision.

Here are a few items you’ll need to get information on before buying a home in a community association:

  • Governing Documents (Articles of Incorporation, Declaration, Bylaws, etc.) These documents 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 and spell out more specific expectations. 


  • Assessments. These are fees 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, the board 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; their responsibility is to manage the day-to-day operations of the association and carry out the decisions of the board. The manager and management staff can answer your questions and help you understand association living.


  • Opportunities for Involvement. There are many opportunities for you to volunteer and participate in your community. 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.