A homeowner's association, or HOA, is a group that manages a number of different aspects of a residential building or neighborhood. HOA board members are often elected or appointed. Some residential areas also hire an HOA company to act on behalf of the homeowners and residents. HOA fees range anywhere from $20 to $850 or more each month, and are often paid separately from your mortgage payment.
One of the most common responsibilities of an HOA is to manage the maintenance of landscaping and grounds in a neighborhood or around a residential building. In neighborhoods with freestanding houses, the owners are typically responsible for maintaining their own yard, but HOAs maintain the grounds in common areas like parks or roadway medians. An HOA might hire a landscaping company to do the actual work, and use money from residents' monthly HOA dues to pay for the maintenance. HOAs are also typically responsible for snow removal in common areas during winter months.
Another responsibility that an HOA covers is general building maintenance. This applies more to apartment or condo buildings than neighborhoods, though if a neighborhood has a common building or recreational center, the HOA likely is responsible for its maintenance. Tasks include making sure the building's exterior is intact and repairing any damage caused by weather or natural disaster. HOAs also are responsible for pest control in the building, like preventing termites, and typically have an insurance policy to cover the building's exterior. Despite the HOA building insurance, it is also a good idea to have your own homeowner's insurance policy.
Some HOAs also cover utility costs for your home. For example, your HOA payment might include costs for your water use or trash removal, especially if you live in an apartment or condo building. The HOA also covers the electrical costs and other utilities for the building in general, though homeowners are typically responsible for paying their gas and electric bill for use in their individual units. Phone, Internet and cable TV are also usually paid privately by homeowners.
The HOA is also responsible for enforcing neighborhood rules and regulations in terms of the appearance of homes and yards. Many HOAs require residents to mow their lawn regularly so the neighborhood looks consistent and well kept. Also, residents might be prohibited from painting their house exterior certain colors, or parking certain vehicles in their driveways, like large trucks or boats. The HOA enforces any cosmetic rules and regulations for a neighborhood using warnings and fines residents must pay if they do not adhere to the rules.