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Homeowners Associations in Georgia

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This week, we are reviving one of our most popular columns.

Though homeowners associations often have a reputation for having seemingly strict rules about aesthetic upkeep and expensive dues, HOAs can add significant property value and curb appeal to a neighborhood. This week, we review Georgia’s HOA laws as well as the advantages and disadvantages of living in a neighborhood with an HOA.

J.D. Crowe, President of Southeast Mortgage

J.D. Crowe, President of Southeast Mortgage

The Georgia Property Owners’ Association Act

Each state has its own legislation for governing HOAs. The Georgia Property Owners’ Association Act gives powers and protections to Georgia’s associations. Some of the provisions include that associations must register with the state, an elected board will be assigned to oversee the HOA and that residents of the home must be allowed access to their home even if the association is imposing penalties on the owner. Some HOAs are voluntary, though non-due paying members generally cannot use amenities such as gyms, pools or conference rooms, while other HOAs require all neighbors to be a member.

For more information on Georgia and other states’ HOA legislation, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website.

The Pros

Many homeowners prefer living in neighborhoods with an HOA.  Generally, homeowner’s associations protect and often boost home values and they give the neighborhood a sense of uniformity because everyone is governed by a certain set of rules that require members to maintain the appearance of their home and property.  These neighborhoods are less likely to have overgrown landscaping or peeling paint, which not only ensures that the neighborhood is well maintained, it also adds value to your home when you’re looking to sell.

Another significant pro to having an HOA is that they maintain neighborhood common areas such as pools, tennis courts and recreation areas. Due-paying members often receive amenities and services such as lawn care that aren’t available to non-due paying members.  In addition, HOAs act as third-party mediators in the event of a dispute between neighbors which can serve to mitigate problems among residents.   The benefits of services, conflict resolution and the assurance of maintaining property values offer many Georgia residents the peace of mind they need to turn to HOAs.

The Cons

When people commit to an HOA, they often sacrifice an element of residential freedom. Though most HOAs have the neighborhood’s best interests in mind, some HOAs place a host of extreme restrictions on residents including outdoor Christmas decorations, types of vehicles in driveways, mailbox color, if school buses can enter a neighborhood and even pets’ size and weight.  Additionally, the yearly dues of an HOA will add costs to your monthly payment, the fees typically aren’t tax deductible and HOAs can raise fees at any time.  And, if you choose not to pay your dues, an HOA can put a lien on your property.

Because HOA restrictions vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, it’s important to read all of the HOA regulations before you purchase a home.  You may find some deal breakers in the contract, such as restrictions on running a business out of your home or renting your home. “Most associations work reasonably well most of the time, but there are tons of examples of really troubling rules,” says Evan McKenzie, associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of the book “Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government.”

More often than not, the benefits of having an HOA outweigh the negatives, however, if you’re on the fence about living in a neighborhood with an HOA, talk directly with the HOA and the residents of the neighborhood for an inside look into the HOA rules and the environment in the neighborhood.

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