A homeowners association (HOA) is a body that creates guidelines intended to serve the common interest of residents within the development. When you purchase a property in an are governed by a HOA you will typically have automatic membership in the association, and all of the rights and obligations that come with membership.
Governance of HOAs are on a state-by-state basis, and each HOA will have unique governing documents (bylaws, covenants, conditions and restrictions).
Homeowners associations will typically regulate things such as:
- Property Appearance: the HOA can limit the colors you use on the exterior of your home and the types of materials that are used.
- Driveway: limitations around whether cars can be parked in your driveway for an excessive period of time, or on the street in front of your home.
- Landscaping / Fencing: the HOA may limit the type of plants you plant on your property, as well as the type of material, color, and height of a fence.
- Detached Structures / New Construction: the HOA may limit what type of new construction you're able to do on an existing property or when constructing a new property, it can also limit the construction of things such as sheds or carports.
- Mailbox / Play Structures / Decorations: the HOA can limit the size, location, style of these items. It can also limit the duration that decorations are allowed to stay up. For example, many HOAs will require that Holiday decorations be taken down within 2-weeks of the holiday ending.
- Pets: the HOA can limit the type, size, and number of pets you can own. Note that there are often restrictions on a municipality level regarding these things.
In general, the HOA's board of directors has the discretion and authority to:
- Assess and collect fees for maintenance and repair of common areas
- Enforce Rules
- Pay taxes and assessments related to common areas (Ex: Couple Buys Affluent San Francisco Street)
- Buy goods and services for common areas
- Take punitive action against association members who violate rules or refuse to pay dues