A Homeowner Association is typically formed as a non-profit corporation initially created by a real estate developer to govern a planned community. Planned communities governed by HOAs can include residential subdivisions, condominiums, and town-home developments. They are initially set into place to give the developer control over the standards of quality in appearance established in the developer’s plans.
They not only give the developer control of the way the homes are built and the appearance of each lot, but they allow them to maintain a high standard for the common areas like the entrance, clubhouse, golf course, and property landscape. Establishing an HOA makes it much easier for that developer to effectively market and sell the lots and homes in the subdivision.
HOAs are run by a board with positions being filled by election or appointment and are bound by the bylaws. An Annual fee called a Homeowner Association Fee, is collected from all owners to continue the maintenance and upkeep of common areas, address legal and safety issues, and enforce restrictions that are applicable to that particular area. The HOA hold monthly meetings to provide residents with a platform to address common concerns within their community.
Real estate law is a branch of civil law governing rights to posses, use and enjoy land and the permanent man-made additions to it. This covers everything from relations between owners, relations between owners and the community, landlord and tenant relations, and the transfer of interests in real property. The purchase, sale and leases of real estate are governed by a wide body of federal and state laws that often vary from state to state.
It’s a really good idea to hire a lawyer to participate in your Homeowner Association meetings primarily for the purpose of translating the bylaws and real estate laws that often are not written in a clear and concise language that everyone understands.
A seasoned lawyer can provide the true meaning of each law and how they actually apply to the residents.
When hiring a lawyer for an HOA, remember there are many services they can provide for that community. It’s important that the board defines their needs before making this investment in order to keep legal fees within the allocated budget. The lawyer should provide a retention letter that spells out their responsibilities, turnaround time, and the attorney’s rate of pay.
When creating the list of responsibilities, give careful thought as to whether the attorney should attend every board meeting. It’s inevitable that legal issues will arise at meetings. Since the association is paying for the attorney’s time, you need to decide whether it’s better to have an immediate answer and a larger legal bill, or answers within a day or two and a smaller legal bill.
With over 23 million HOAs governing residents throughout the country today, there are numerous reports lawsuits that arise most of which are over simple misinterpretations of these laws. Many of these lawsuits could easily have been avoided if members had understood the rules clearly from the start. Lawyers understand all the nuances of the law and can effectively advise the board members and residents on the best legal course of action for resolving problems in their community.