Homeowners associations can be fantastic at getting deadbeat neighbors to mow their lawn, maintaining the community pool and clubhouse, and dissuading the woman across the street from painting her house a particularly noxious shade of neon pink. But they can also be a costly source of frustration for those who run afoul of their many, many, many rules.
The most common HOA fine is for improper landscaping, according to a recent Porch survey of more than 700 residents of HOA communities. Porch is an online marketplace connecting homeowners to home improvement professionals.
“The most surprising thing about these fines was how silly some of they were,” says Tori Rubloff, a project manager at Porch who put the survey together. “If your trash is out too early or you’re too excited about the holidays or you simply want to have a different hue in your exterior paint color, you can be fined.”
There were more than 300,000 HOAs in 2016, according to Porch. They can be found in suburban neighborhoods filled with single-family houses as well as urban apartment or condo buildings.
The other most common fines were for putting out the trash too early—or too late; improper or untimely holiday decorations; owning a pet; improperly parked vehicles; renting out rooms, and speeding through the neighborhood.
HOA members have also been fined for things like adding a deck, patio, or fence without permission from the association; painting a home an unapproved color, and paying HOA dues late.
About 29% of folks have knowingly broken an HOA rule, according to the survey. Meanwhile, more than half, 52%, have not paid an outstanding HOA fine.
Apartment renters were the happiest with their HOAs, at about 61%. That’s despite paying the most to their associations, at an average $310 a month nationally. (This amount can vary greatly depending on the building, services included, and location.) About 54% of single-family homeowners and 49% of townhome owners were pleased with the associations. They paid an average of $251 and $230, respectively.
The majority of folks chose to move into an HOA community because it’s where the home they liked was located, at 78%. The other top reasons were that it’s safe, at 44%; to guarantee their home’s property value won’t fall, at 41%; for the recreational amenities, at 34%; and because it provides home maintenance services, at 32%.
“People don’t have to necessarily stress about certain landscaping, having community maintenance and security because they’ll often have a security guard or a gate,” says Rubloff. “If you live in an HOA community, that’s already taken care of for you. That’s very convenient.
“Clare Trapasso is the senior news editor of realtor.com and an adjunct journalism professor at St. John’s University. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication, the New York Daily News, and the Associated Press. She is also a licensed real estate agent with R New York. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @claretrap