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Summary: Are you thinking of buying a home in Seattle or anywhere else in Washington state that’s run by a homeowners association (HOA)? If so, you’ll want to learn all the ins and outs of these types of properties, as well as the potential issues you may encounter. This article will outline some of the problems with HOAs that you may want to be prepared for just in case.
When you are looking to purchase a home, you might hear a lot about something called a homeowners association, often shortened to HOA. While there are benefits of having an HOA in a living community, these benefits also have their drawbacks.
There are a few common headaches that people often experience when they move into a community that has an HOA. Anticipating these problems ahead of time can help everyone prepare for what they might encounter.
1. The Maintenance In The Common Area
Whether you are living in a condo or in a neighborhood, the HOA is supposed to maintain the community common areas. This includes pool maintenance, lawns, landscaping, gyms, and more.
In some areas, your HOA might even be responsible for cleaning up after a storm goes through the area. Sometimes, this simply doesn’t happen. This can cause the neighborhood to look like a mess. If the neighborhood isn’t properly maintained, your property values may suffer.
2. Problems With Parking
Without a doubt, parking issues are among the most common problems that you might encounter with your HOA. When someone is driving through town, traffic and parking issues are handled by the police.
In the neighborhood, the HOA is typically responsible. The bylaws of the homeowners association might even give them the right to fine people. Make sure you read the agreement with the HOA carefully. You need to know the laws as well as your rights.
3. Antenna Issues
If your HOA gives you a hard time about which service provider you choose for your cable or satellite, you should know that they do not have the right to force you to take your antennas or satellite dish down. This is true even if the HOA feels as though they negatively impact the aesthetics of the complex.
On the other hand, if you use an antenna, there are still some HOA rules that can control its location. Make sure that you check your HOAs rules carefully.
4. Pet Issues
Another common issue when it comes to HOAs are pets. If you have a dog, cat, or any other pet, you will certainly want to find out what types of rules that your HOA enforces in its regulations.
Most HOAs don’t strictly ban pets entirely, but what they may do is have certain rules in effect that restrict the types or size of pets allowed. For instance, they may have a rule that states that no dogs over 60 pounds are allowed, or perhaps they may restrict the number of pets per unit to two. They may also have restrictions in terms of certain breeds of dogs that are and aren’t allowed.
The HOA may also have rules that govern how your pets are to be taken care of so that they are not a nuisance and that the complex is not destroyed by animals. Common pet issues usually involve things such as noise, violations of leash laws, and pet waste that is not cleaned up.
As long as you comply with the HOAs rules, you should have no issues. But if you have more than the allowed number of pets, or have a breed that the HOA does not allow, you could be facing some issues.
5. Hanging Clothing Outside to Dry
Some HOAs have restrictions in their regulations that disallow residents from hanging their clothes out to dry. Whether it’s a community with detached homes or townhouses with yards, or a condo building with balconies, hanging clothing on clotheslines outside may not be permitted.
That said, Oregon law states that such rules are not lawful and are not enforceable. Regardless, this could be a sticky point in many complexes.
6. Common Area Maintenance
Certain areas of an HOA community are referred to as “common” because they’re free to be used by all residents in the complex. But while residents are responsible for maintaining what they own, the HOA is tasked with caring for these common areas, which can include elevators, the lobby, the parking lot, fitness room, and so forth.
Unfortunately, some HOAs do not do such a great job of maintaining these common areas. Oftentimes these common areas are left disheveled and in need of repairs with little to no attention being given to them. If your HOA is not keeping up their end of the bargain, this could negatively affect your enjoyment of your home.
In this case, you and other owners would have to approach the HOA board members to address these issues. If nothing is done after this discussion, you may have to take further steps in the form of legal action to get the HOA to tend to the property.
7. Poor Communication
Being able to communicate with the HOA is important, especially if there are issues that need to be addressed and dealt with. But some HOAs don’t have adequate lines of communication. They may be tough to get a hold of or simply don’t respond to queries, which can be a real nuisance for those living in an HOA.
8. Disagreements With the Board
Many times, those who are elected to be on the HOA board may make decisions that owners don’t agree with. This could include any number of things, such as disagreements on which cable or security services should be brought in. Ultimately, homeowners may be forced to file disputes, especially when it comes to who or what capital expenses are being spent on.
9. Nefarious Activity Among Board Members
Sometimes there are HOA board members who do not behave in the best interests of the homeowners and the overall community. They may be involved in theft of funds, or may pull scams that allow them to pocket money that is not owed to them. For instance, it’s not uncommon for board members to hire service providers that they know, only to pay them an inflated price for their services, with part of those funds going into the pockets of the board member responsible for hiring them.
10. Unwarranted Fines
One of the most annoying issues that homeowners in an HOA face are random fines. This tends to happen when a resident does something that the HOA is not fond of. When this happens, a notice of rule violation may be given to the resident.
However, many times there are no rules that outlaw certain behaviors or activities. Instead, HOA board members may just randomly issue a fine without there actually be a by-law against the behavior. HOA board members cannot issue fines if it is not stipulated in the rulebook.
Understanding Homeowners Association Problems
Some of the other issues that you might encounter with your local homeowners’ association involve pets, holiday decorations, and other random fines. You should read up on the bylaws ahead of time so you know what lies ahead. While not every HOA in Seattle creates problems, others can be a real headache.
As always, your local real estate agent can answer specific HOA-related questions on any community in the area.
If you are in the market for a new home or interested in refinancing your current property, be sure to consult with your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss financing options.
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