Important Documents for Buyers Looking to Join an HOA

Important Documents for Buyers Looking to Join an HOA

April 4, 2024

Approximately 30% of the United States population lives in a homeowners’ association (HOA); and it makes sense—managed communities come with countless perks, like improved camaraderie, amenities, and property values.

However, the buying process can be a little complicated, and making the decision to join an HOA can be intimidating. Before closing on a property, it’s important for buyers to be fully informed about the HOA lifestyle and what is and isn’t allowed in their new community. Read on to learn about the documents HOA buyers should review, HOA membership, and more.  

Documents to Review Before Joining an HOA

If permitted, potential HOA homebuyers should review the following documents before finalizing a sale:

1. Governing documents

HOA governing documents are arguably the most critical documentation that prospective and current residents should access. These documents provide a comprehensive overview of the HOA’s operating structure, rules, regulations, and more. Buyers should have this information before signing so they can understand how the HOA functions from day one—and ensure they’re willing to comply. Governing documents include:

1. Federal, State, and Local Laws

HOAs are subject to federal, state, and local laws. Because some statutes are directly tied to HOA legal matters, these laws preside over all HOA governing documents. Altering some of the forms within the governing documents may violate the law and have legal consequences.

2. Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions (CC&Rs)

CC&Rs help residents comprehend the obligations and rights within the HOA. You’ll usually find the following in the CC&Rs:

  • Property-use appearance and restrictions
  • Legal definitions of amenities
  • Architectural standards
  • Who covers maintenance costs
  • Fees, dues, and special assessment information

3. Articles of Incorporation

Filed with the local secretary of state, the Articles of Incorporation establish the HOA as a non-profit organization. You’ll discover the following in the Articles of Incorporation:

  • HOA founding date
  • HOA purpose
  • Office HOA location

4. HOA Bylaws

Bylaws outline how the HOA board members must conduct themselves and how the board functions logistically. Dictating operational procedures, the following are usually covered in the bylaws:

  • Elections
  • Meetings
  • Powers
  • Voting
  • Quorum
  • Budgeting

5. Rules and Regulations

The HOA Rules and Regulations are how the CC&Rs are implemented by the board. In short, they explain what is and isn’t allowed in an HOA. Within them, you might find:

  • Parking guidelines
  • Amenity hours
  • Guest restrictions
  • Pet limitations
  • Trash rules
  • Complaint policies

2. Financial documents

All members must pay various fees to sustain the HOA’s operations, amenities, and more. Buyers should obtain financial records related to their property and the HOA to confirm they understand and can fulfill their financial responsibilities. The CC&Rs and bylaws will detail fee amounts, payment processes, and schedules. They may also summarize any past increases or parameters for increases and special assessments.

HOA financial documents should also include information about budgeting and reserve funds. It’s essential for HOAs to stick to their budget and have well-funded reserves to protect residents and deliver peace of mind. Reviewing these documents will paint a clear picture of the HOA’s financial stability.

3. Meeting minutes

Required to be taken at all official HOA meetings, meeting minutes are a written record of what happens during a meeting. Buyers can request access to minutes and examine them to learn about the community’s financial health, past and upcoming projects, legal issues, conflicts, and more.

Plus, if you’re able and it’s allowed, ask to attend a board meeting to get the lay of the land and connect with board members and residents.

4. Insurance policies

All communities should have HOA insurance, a form of commercial property insurance. This insurance policy serves as a safeguard for the community, shielding it and its members from liability risks and other losses. Buyers should review the policy and understand which parties are held responsible in various situations.

Do you have to join the HOA?

If your community has a mandatory HOA, all residents are required to join, pay the fees, and abide by the rules. Conversely, some HOAs are optional, so membership is voluntary.

Should I join the HOA board?

HOA residents don’t have to join their community’s board of directors, as these are volunteer positions. However, if you have the time and talents to do so, participation is encouraged.  

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