When it comes to homeowner’s associations, you need to know what type yours is before you determine whether to “join” it. There are two types of associations, covenant-based and voluntary. When homeowners ask about requirements to join a homeowner’s association, they may believe it is optional, but if our association is covenant-based, you have automatic membership by virtue of being a property owner.
Here’s How They Work
A voluntary association is a group of property owners that collectively decide how to improve their neighborhood. By the time you move into the neighborhood, the HOA may be well-established, so you’re not aware of how it started. Such HOAs are more similar to neighborhood improvement clubs, local sports team sponsors, and other folks that join in order to develop a sense of community.
A covenant-based HOA is a contract that is part of the land purchase agreement within a development. That means that all property owners automatically must retain membership and that agreement is binding on all future owners within the specified development.
You might question how a contract is binding on future owners, but in the case of a covenant-based homeowner’s association, the covenant “runs with” the property as recorded in the county land records office. The document that spells out the covenants attaches to the property deed. When you buy a lot or home in the development, the original deed and any liens or covenants that attach to it become your responsibility.
Often, the original developer set up and controlled the association until the last piece of land sold or a sufficient number of homes sold so that the running of the association could transfer to the owners. Typically, these determinations are part of the original covenant documents filed with the county records. HOAs are run by a board of elected owners from within the development. Unlike a voluntary association, renters or leaseholders cannot become members even though they are bound by the rules and conditions of the association.
Know Which Type It Is
Before you choose to purchase a home in a neighborhood with an association, learn whether it is voluntary or covenant-based. Ask to see copies of the covenants, conditions, and rules (CC&Rs) before you commit to purchasing in that development. Your real estate agent can write a contingency into your purchase contract to require approval of the CC&Rs if you’re concerned about living within the HOA.