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Is Condo Association / HOA Living for Me?

"Not the way we did it up north" describes association living for most people, whether it's a single-family homeowner association or a condominium community. Association living may seem quite different to some from our traditional concept of home ownership. Most new owners find the association lifestyle quite advantageous, particularly if they have carefully researched their new community before buying. Residents who find themselves dissatisfied with living in an association typically were not completely informed of the lifestyle before purchasing and, as a result, had different expectations. Conscientious scrutiny of your prospective association is the key to peaceful living and the absence of surprises.

Associations can often be compared to municipalities. Residents own the common areas and amenities of an association in much the same way taxpayers own the parks, streets, etc., in a city. Homeowner and condominium associations come in a wide variety of sizes and types with many different accommodations, conveniences and amenities. The governing Board of Directors is usually elected by the membership of the association, just as citizens elect their local, state, and federal government. The Board of the association has the responsibility to oversee the operation of the community in the same fashion as elected governmental officials. Just as in municipalities, associations will often hire a manager to oversee the day-to-day operations. The smooth operation of your association will provide you with enhanced property values and the quiet enjoyment of your new home as was anticipated when the decision to purchase was made.

Excited new home or condominium owners often overlook one of the most important aspects of the purchasing decision - reading the association documents. Association documents provide the details of all the benefits of your association. The documents also spell out your responsibilities as an owner and neighbor. Be sure that you have read them before you decide to buy and you will attain much greater contentment after you move into your new home. Your new association may not allow your beloved 65 pound dog. The homeowner association may not allow the 12 foot privacy fence you've always dreamed about or you may be surprised to find out that you can't plant those prized Honeybell orange trees. Learning the answers to questions like these beforehand may preserve the peace and tranquility you're seeking. If you have questions or concerns after reading the documents, it is always a good idea to consult your attorney.

Once you've chosen that new association, become involved. Whether serving as a Board Member or on a committee, the success of any association and your community depends on the commitment and cooperation of the residents.

Frank Kneiser, Association Times, October 2005