Homeowner rights vary from state to state and among different homeowners associations. Many of the HOAs are run and managed by elected officers or by building contractors or property management companies. Every state has laws that govern HOAs, however, and how they may be operated, as well as covering the rights of the property owner. Who handles what repairs depends on the rules of your particular HOA.
What an HOA Is
An HOA is a governing body that makes and enforces most rules that pertain to "common interest communities," such as condominiums, subdivisions and townhomes for residential developments. Those rules determine how the association is managed and operated and who is responsible for what, including repairs in or outside the home. In the case of an HOA, most cover the outside of the home and the "common" areas---the areas that all of the resident's use. The homeowner is responsible for the interior areas, including the walls and ceilings and floors and all of the contents therein.
Application of State Laws
According to the American Bar Association, "Most of the substantive law--and confusion--lies in an ever-changing patchwork of state statutes." By state statute, all common-interest communities must file, at minimum, their articles of incorporation, a declaration of conditions, covenants, restrictions (called a 'CC&R'), and their formal bylaws with the county or parish or local office that governs and registers residential property. (In some states, like Georgia, for example, they must be registered with the Clerk of Superior Court of the county where the specific property is located).
HOA trustees should develop strategies for maintenance, renovations and repairs to the buildings that they manage. Many of these associations will opt to borrow the money to get the job done instead of depleting reserve accounts that hold the funds of the homeowners who pay into it. They may borrow for repairs to roofs, exterior windows and walls, and upgrades to outdoor lighting and recreation facilities and keep collected funds on hand for emergencies. A property owner has a right, and an obligation, to report damages and request needed repairs to any of the outside apertures and fixtures that are the association's responsibility.
Most HOAs do not cover the interiors of any of the homes of its association members. People who live in HOA communities should always (sometimes they are required to) carry homeowner's insurance to take care of needed repairs to the housing interiors, with the exception of things like pipes, electrical wiring and plumbing---matters that could end up affecting all of the property owners or the entire community. These matters are governed by your HOA rules, too, so if you have not already purchased your home, it may be a good idea to ask to see a copy of them so you will know what is covered before moving in and avoid any unexpected surprises. If you've already purchased your home, you should have been given a copy of the rules at closing.
Association Insurance and Repair/Reserve Funds
Owners' fees go into a repair and reserve fund. You have the right to know how much money is in there and what amount is set aside for planned improvements, additions, repairs and emergencies. The HOA blanket insurance policy is often accepted by lenders as proof of property coverage when closing on your home loan. For those HOA blanket policies that do not cover the interior of the home, it is best to purchase a personal Fire and Hazard policy whether you are required to have it or not. As always, if you are not certain who should pay for what when repairs do become necessary, read your HOAs filing documents and printed materials that you should have copies of.
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