Words & Concepts to Know When Living in a Community Association
It’s Dictionary Day!
There are plenty of words and important concepts to know when living in a Homeowners’ or Condominium Association.
Let’s start with the basics – what is a Homeowners’ Association and/or Condominium Association?
A Homeowners’ Association (HOA), as well as a Condominium Association, is a corporation that is formed by a developer and/or builder for the purpose of selling homes. By forming an HOA or Condominium Association, the developer is able to exit financial and legal responsibilities of the entity once the community is developed to a certain percentage (view your community documents for accurate percentage). When you buy into an HOA or Condominium Association, you are obligated and legally responsible to follow the community’s Governing Documents, which include: the Articles of Incorporation; By-laws; Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions; and, for some communities, Rules and Regulations. Additionally, these community corporations are also obligated to follow local and state laws. These restrictions and laws are set and enforced to maintain property values and to help your community remain a peaceful and desirable place to live.
After polling our Community Association Managers, we were able to come up with a list of the top 10 words and/or concepts one should know when living in a Community Association
…and here they are!
- Architectural Guidelines: These are rules and restrictions that are set in place to ensure that the changes an individual wishes to make to the exterior of their home are in compliance with his/her community’s Governing Documents. The process for each community is different and one should refer to both the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions as well as the Community Rules and Regulations for the exact process and restrictions within his/her community. Architectural restrictions are important in helping maintain property values.
- Articles of Incorporation: Formal documents filed with a government body to legally document the creation of a corporation.
- Association Fees: Association fees are paid either monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly, to the Association so that continued maintenance and upkeep of the community are routinely and efficiently being completed. These fees cover costs that include, but are not limited to, lawn maintenance and snow removal, janitorial services, insurance, storm water management, administrative expenses, pool management, water & sewer, trash removal, management fees, clubhouse repairs, legal fees and more. Without the association fees, such services to your community would not be available. To see exactly where your money is being distributed, please view your community budget.
- By-laws: By-laws are written documents that provide rules and regulations for the operation of the corporation or organization. These documents set the standard for electing a Board of Directors and also provide information and procedures for holding meetings. By-laws govern how an association operates.
- Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions: Also known as CC&Rs, these documents lay out specific guidelines for communities that must be followed by each homeowner – these are the neighborhood rules! Such items found in the CC&Rs include, but are not limited to, lawn maintenance, noise ordinances, architectural guidelines, pet policies, trash and recycling regulations, and many more.
- Plat: A plat is a plan/map of an area of land. In an HOA or Condominium Association, a plat of a homeowner’s specific lot is required when submitting an architectural request so that your Board and Community Association Manager can ensure you are not impeding onto a neighbor’s property or covering an easement. Your Community Association Manager, may use a plat of the whole community, to look at easements, determine public or private roads, determine whose property a certain object is located on, etc.
- Property Management Company: Your property management company deals directly with homeowners and tenants, and acts as the liaison between you and your Board of Directors. Property management companies collect your association fees that go towards your community’s budget, handle repair and maintenance issues, respond to homeowner complaints, prepare annual meetings, create community budgets, send community notices, and much more.
- Reserve Account: A reserve account is extremely important to have for an HOA or Condominium Association. A community’s reserve account is essentially a savings account that is set up so that when larger maintenances items or unexpected expenses occur, the community can pull money from this account without creating a special assessment.
- Special Assessment: A special assessment is an additional charge to homeowners that can be assessed due to the lack of funds or overage of a line item in a budget. For example, a community may have budgeted $15k for snow removal but, because of the unforeseen heavy snowfall, the snow removal costs for the year totaled $20k. Through a special assessment each home is required to pay a certain amount to make up the difference and balance the community budget.
- Volunteer: A person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task. All of your Board members are volunteers choosing to help and make a difference in your community. Your management company takes direction from your Board of Directors. This is your community but together, we can make it great!
We hope this helps you to better understand the concept of what it means to live in an HOA or Condominium Association!
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