HOA 101: Basic Terms & Definitions
Like any organization, HOAs, or homeowners' associations, use a language of their own. This can make living in an HOA community or attending an HOA meeting a frustrating or confusing experience. But, it doesn't have to be! Once you learn the basics, you will have a better understanding of what an HOA is and how they operate. Below are the most commonly used HOA terms and what they mean.
HOA is short for homeowners' association. They're established as non-profit organizations to help manage, run, and maintain a community. While HOA is the most common organization name, you may hear others, including property owners' association (POA).
To function correctly, an HOA is required to have a board which is authorized to act on a community's behalf. These boards help create and enforce community guidelines and maintain shared spaces. Boards are made up of volunteers from the community who are elected into the position by other members of the association.
Volunteers serving on the HOA board are called board members. Every board includes four central officer positions—president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary.
A quorum is the minimum number of owners required to hold a meeting for the association. Having a proper quorum is critical anytime an HOA board wants to conduct official business, changes rules, or vote on new board officers.
Fiduciary responsibility means the board will have an ethical and moral obligation to make decisions for the benefit of everyone in the community, not just for a single home.
This collection of documents includes the declaration, bylaws, operation rules, articles of incorporation, and other materials which govern the day-to-day operation of the HOA.
HOA Management Company
A community association management company, or HOA management company, is often contracted by the board to help fulfill duties the volunteer board members are unable to carry out. Often, these companies will help support maintenance, accounting, and other community efforts depending on the association's needs.
Community Association Manager
The community association manager, or CAM for short, is the face of the HOA management company. You may see CAMs around the community, at meetings, or when you pay your HOA fees. They work closely with boards to perform many basic functions and resolve any complaints or issues that come up along the way.
HOA fees, sometimes referred to as assessments, are collected on a monthly or yearly basis. The amount can vary, but the average monthly HOA fee in the U.S. is around $125. These fees go towards association operations like insurance, landscaping, and maintenance, and towards the funding of an HOA reserve.
HOA Reserve Fund
The board is required to fund a reserve account for the community, which is collected to cover necessary capital improvements including parking lot resurfacing, new roofs, painting, and more.
HOA Transfer Fee
When you purchase a home or condo that is part of an HOA, you'll probably have to pay an HOA transfer fee. Transfer fees are different from the monthly or yearly fees owners must pay and goes towards documenting new ownership and sharing all the necessary documents with the new homeowner. The average transfer fee is around $250.
A budget is a financial plan for an association which estimates income and expenses for a specific period.
Assessments are additional fees that are typically used to pay for budget shortfalls or unexpected costs. A board must vote on an assessment before charging homeowners additional fees.
When an HOA rule or regulation is violated, a fine can be issued. HOA fine amounts will depend on your community's governing documents and other local and state laws that regulate fees.
Have any HOA terms you want us to define or explore in detail? Leave suggestions in the comments! Also, stay tuned for our next article all about common HOA terms in Canada.