Tips for your first homeowners association

June 2 — With the increase in the number of condominiums and gated communities, more and more residents of Rochester will eventually move into a property with a homeowners association.

The principle is simple: the owners agree to pay fees and abide by the rules in order to maintain a cohesive atmosphere in the neighborhood. Many HOAs use membership dues to perform lawn maintenance and outdoor chores for the entire community. Some of the costs also go into a reserve fund, which can be used for larger repairs, such as roofs and siding. A membership council is elected from among the residents to make decisions about maintenance, finances, and rule when other members wish to make visible changes to their homes.

Newcomers to HOAs can find the legal jargon intimidating – so we spoke to the folks who start HOAs in Rochester for some guidance.

Read the documents. Tom Hill, of Matik Management, said buyers have 10 days at a sale to review their HOA’s decision documents (declaration, statutes and rules and regulations). These documents will let homeowners know how much their monthly fees will cost (usually in the hundreds of dollars), how the council is elected, and how restrictive the rules are regarding their future home (consistency of design, color and material). .

HOA documents are not fun to read, but it is important to review them and seek clarification if necessary before the sale is closed. Many buyers look at a property and plan to make external changes, then skip reading their HOA documents during the sale, Hill said, which has caused problems down the line.

“They say, ‘I want to do this, I want to do that,’ then they look at the HOA and realize that there are steps for this and they might not be able to complete this change. “, did he declare.

Expect big changes. Mike Paradise, president of Bigelow Homes, has managed several new properties through the creation of an HOA.

“Living in an HOA is a different way of life,” he said.

While some homeowners might seek such a community so they can travel without worrying about snow removal and winter maintenance, many young people have also looked at developments planned to avoid tasks such as mowing the lawn during the winter. buying their first property, he said. .

That said, keep expectations reasonable. Those who walk into an HOA because of the built-in outdoor care sometimes complain when their lawn isn’t mowed immediately or the snow “hasn’t gone 10 minutes after the snow stops,” Paradise said. “Be patient. … A lot of these companies that deal with snow and turf for associations have multiple clients. It may take them a while to get around.”

Do not plan changes without approval. Each community’s rules and regulations are HOA and property specific, so buyers can’t assume that a planned development’s guidelines will apply to every home they consider, Hill added. However, the “catch phrase” tends to be that “any change outside of a unit, or any change that would affect your neighbor, must be approved”.

It doesn’t just include painting or landscaping, Hill said. A resident who wishes to obtain cable television may need approval for a satellite dish. A fireplace would require a visible fireplace.

Most HOAs have a board of directors or architectural control committee (ACC) made up of residents, who approve any change request. These residents will check the form for any changes to community rules and regulations, and come back with a confirmation or denial.

Maintain your home. Your average gated community has rows and rows of neat landscapes and perfectly painted doorways – but part of that responsibility falls on the residents.

“A common misconception is, ‘I’m buying property in an HOA, I’ll pay my dues, so it’s all settled,’” Hill said. “This is not entirely true.”

Communities have a built-in way of dealing with “bad neighbors” and those who do not maintain their properties.

“If someone isn’t tracking a property… the HOA can actually have repairs done and then assess the costs for that owner,” Hill said.

To be involved. One of the great benefits of living in an HOA is the “return to that sense of community,” Hill said. “I’m 41, I remember growing up in the 80’s and playing in my neighborhood, and we all knew each other. You don’t always find that now.”

Hill, who manages over a thousand units, typically sees reluctance to participate in running HOA or attending board meetings. The board of directors and all committees give direction to the management companies, not the other way around. However, it certainly takes time and effort to become a leader.

Paradise said that while some residents fear “neighborhood politics,” the lack of volunteers is creating problems in HOAs. Hill recommends that newcomers to HOAs start small.

“Get to know your board, get to know your neighbors,” he said. “Try to volunteer in some aspect. It’s important to know what’s going on.”

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