How can an HOA cause you problems?


The North Carolina Planned Community Act regulates homeowners’ associations (HOAs) in subdivisions created on or after Jan. 1, 1999. An association may pass and enforce HOA rules to maintain the appearance and security of a neighborhood. It may also assess fees from the homeowners to maintain or replace common area elements such as pools, clubhouses and landscaping. Problems arise when you fail to keep your property in a manner that satisfies the governing board or if you neglect to pay your mandatory maintenance fees.

Research before you purchase

Once you close on a house, you are obligated to obey the HOA rules and pay fees. Fees include maintenance charges for the common area, but they can also include special assessments or membership fees. For example, suppose the subdivision voted to construct lighted tennis courts. You might be obligated to pay your proportional share of the cost in addition to a monthly fee. If there is a golf course, the HOA might require you to pay a membership fee. Your real estate agent should obtain these documents for you before the closing date.

Resident rules and regulations

Rules and regulations can include almost anything that’s not discriminatory, and the HOA can fine residents who don’t comply. Vehicular restrictions are commonplace. Many governed neighborhoods may require pickup trucks, commercial vehicles or RVs to park in the garage. If your garage isn’t large enough, you’re out of luck.

Other restrictions you might encounter include the following:

  • No tenants
  • No fences
  • House paint color must conform to the approved palette
  • Selected dog breeds not allowed
  • No flags
  • Association approval for property additions

Common area maintenance

The maintenance fee always covers the upkeep costs for the common areas but may also include lawn maintenance for residents. You won’t mind the additional charge if you hate cutting grass and trimming shrubbery; otherwise, you’re paying for something you’d prefer to do yourself. Maintenance fees aren’t static. They may increase to reflect rising costs for labor and materials.

Unpaid fees

If you don’t pay the fees you owe, the HOA has the right to place a lien on your property for the amount that is due. Unfortunately, foreclosure is one way to enforce the lien. You could lose your home if you don’t pay maintenance, fines, and special assessment fees.

Residents are willing to pay for an HOA that allows neighborhoods to maintain their charm and curb appeal. However, if you want to live there, you must obey all the rules or face the consequences.