New to association living? It can seem like there's an overwhelming amount of information to take in. This post will explain the basics of how the association works and your role in it as a homeowner so that you can start taking advantage of community living as soon as possible.
A is for Association. It's important to begin at the beginning with clear definitions. A homeowners association is an organization established to govern a private community. Typically it owns and manages common property for owners of private houses, condominium or townhouse units. By buying a lot and/or home in the community, an owner automatically becomes a member of the homeowners association. Most homeowners associations are corporations established under not-for-profit corporation law.
B is for Bylaws and Budgets. A homeowners association is similar to other corporations in that it is governed by a board of directors elected by the members and a set of governing documents, including the Declaration of Codes, Covenants & Restrictions, Rules and Regulations and Bylaws. The Declaration provides the means by which the association can enforce the members’ obligations and the By-laws set forth the procedures for running the association. Additionally, books and records of financial transactions must be kept, taxes paid, and certain services provided to members in accordance with the governing documents. Usually the board has an annual budget prepared to estimate expenses, and then assesses each member a share of the costs. The developer establishes the scope of the association initially by setting out the services and expenses in the association’s budget. (Generally, the developer controls the association at first and relinquishes control to the individual owners some years later.)
C is for Community and Collective Goals. The individual owner in a homeowners association has the opportunity to become involved and participate in the on-going affairs of the community and the responsibility to ensure that their actions conform to the by-laws and declaration.
Leaders of the homeowner association are, in most cases, volunteers and residents of the community. They are confronted with enforcing the covenants and restrictions among their neighbors and balancing community goals and the rights of individual owners. The officers and directors carry out their duties within the formal confines of the governing documents, the rules of parliamentary procedure and applicable law. Collectively, these formal standards ensure fairness and uniformity for community residents.
Members of the homeowners association have two responsibilities. One to themselves and to their individually owned property, and one to the association. The individual responsibility requires the member to occupy, maintain and use the property in accordance with the restrictive covenants. By doing so, the member avoids the penalties and sanctions available to the association when enforcing the restrictions. By meeting the individual financial obligations, the member avoids the possibility of liens against the property and the levy of additional penalties and costs at the time delinquent assessments are collected.
The member responsibility to the community, and the collective goal of the homeowners association, is to maintain the quality of the property and the lifestyle envisioned by the planned residential development. Apathy by individual members can render the association ineffective and can destroy the community. To maintain the quality of life that accompanies a well-maintained residential community, each individual member must do his or her part. The success of the homeowners association will depend on how well each member meets and keeps the responsibilities that are established by the covenants which create the overall community concept.