Dealing With Your HOA


Where I live in Florida, it seems that every halfway “nice” subdivision has a homeowners’ association (HOA), often managed by a professional HOA management company like the one where I work. Living all my life (up until three years ago) in Georgia, I’d never even heard of an HOA management company. But here, possibly because too many people are crowded onto residential lots about as big as  postage stamps and homes are expensive, people tend to be a lot more concerned about what the neighbors are doing. The HOA is ostensibly charged with preserving property values in the neighborhood, and since the actual board is made up of volunteer homeowners who usually have full-time jobs and other commitments, they often hire a management company to handle the day-to-day business of running the community.

At my company, for example, we are hired–by the board of community volunteers– to do monthly inspections of the communities, deal with the vendors who handle such tasks as landscaping and lake maintenance, and (among other things) send out invoices and collect HOA dues.

By and large, we are not very popular with the average homeowner. :-(

In fact, we get cussed out on a daily basis by homeowners, for a variety of reasons. (Sometimes by Christians who snarl “Have a blessed day” after ripping us to shreds, which reminds me–I plan on doing a post in the near future about how anger levels seem to correlate with EGO SIZE, so keep an eye open for that.) Anyway, I think that in many cases, if  homeowners could keep their cool long enough to get a clue about how HOA management actually works, they could spare themselves a lot of pointless stress. May I offer a few tips?

1) Please remember that your representatives sought us out and HIRED US. We did not storm in and take over your community by force.  Also, we don’t make up the rules! We are hired to enforce the covenants and restrictions that have been in existence since your neighborhood began! Now it may be that we are enforcing rules that the previous management company did not, but guess what? That’s probably why your board hired us. We are trying to keep your neighborhood from “going downhill.” We are trying to help you.

2) We understand that nobody likes being told what to do. You may have every intention of cutting your grass or pressure washing your siding just as soon as you get a chance, and it makes you angry for someone to have the nerve to mail you a letter pointing out that you need to get on it. You know already! You don’t need us to tell you! Okay, that’s fine, but must you call and scream at our receptionist? We are not mind readers, you know. We drive by your house and we call ‘em like we see ‘em. We have no idea whether tasks have gone undone because you’re recovering from surgery or because you’re lying on the sofa eating Cheetohs, and no, we are not going to knock on each and every door just to inquire.  Give us a break, we’re just doing our job.


3) We don’t “grade on the curve.” There is one standard for the entire neighborhood, so it is really a waste of time for you to respond to a letter from us by stating that your neighbor’s property looks much worse than yours, so why don’t we send them a letter? Just so you know, if your neighbor’s grass is a foot high and they have a junk car in the driveway and a Lynyrd Skynyrd flag in the living room window instead of curtains, I’m pretty sure we HAVE sent them a letter. It’s just that they don’t care. Your trashy neighbor is ignoring us, and eventually we may have to take them to court to force them to comply, which may cost thousands of dollars of YOUR HOA’s money. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll pursue them to the ends of the earth, IF your board instructs us to. Why don’t  you go to the next meeting and let your voice be heard? One other thing: we are not harassing you because of your race or nationality. It’s not exactly a rarity nowadays for people of all stripes to live in the same neighborhood. Nobody is saying, “Oh, my word, we MUST get this black/hispanic/Muslim person out of the neighborhood!” Chances are, when we’re doing property inspections, we have no idea who lives in the house anyway. We are simply making a note that 123 Elm Street needs to trim their hedges. It’s no more personal than that.

4) We enforce the covenants, but we do not handle everything that happens in the community. If your neighbors are throwing wild parties or their kids are running wild through your yard, call the cops or child protective services. We also can’t do anything about the sexual predator who moved into the area or the Canada geese who soil your driveway. Think about what power we have. Do you want us to send the geese a letter? Also–and I am so serious about this–do not call us and complain that someone’s dog is pooping in your yard if you have no idea whose dog it is! What do you think we’re going to do, stake out the property with infrared binoculars to catch him in the act? Just because something is happening that you do not like does not automatically mean that the HOA management company is responsible for fixing it.

5) We understand that you own your property and feel you should be able to do whatever you want on it. However, you CHOSE to buy a home in a deed-restricted community, and I’ll assume you did that because you wanted to make sure the neighbors wouldn’t be able to do something tacky. However, please realize that YOU are someone else’s neighbor, and they don’t want YOU to do something tacky. Maybe you think a gazebo or a statue of Aphrodite or some fake deer in the front yard would be lovely. Maybe you think pink is a perfect color for a house, or maybe a tin roof is more to your liking than slate. But our job is to keep the neighborhood harmonious, so that one person’s idea of beauty does not became an eyesore to a hundred others. You want absolute freedom? Go buy some acreage where there are no HOA rules to restrict you.


6) The management company is not pocketing your assessment (dues) money. Your HOA has a bank account, and they vote every year about what it will take to run the community. The management company collects your money and  puts it in your community’s account. Out of that, they do pay us a set fee for our services, but they pay numerous other vendors as well, to maintain your community. Request to see the budget if you’d like to know where your money is going. And by the way, please do not call us and raise a horrible fuss if you fail to pay and then must face the consequences. We are not pocketing your money then, either, but a lawyer might be profiting somewhat from your failure to take care of your obligation. Sure, times are hard for lots of people, but what state would your neighborhood be in if nobody paid?

I’ll stop there for now, though I’m sure I’ll add another post on this topic at some point. In the meantime, please just try to keep your righteous indignation in check, and deal with your management company like a sensible adult. Lawn-mowing is great for stress-reduction, I’ve heard… :-)


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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laura Lane of Harvest Lane Cottage
    Sep 07, 2014 @ 21:25:59

    Praise God I don’t have one! Of course, I also don’t have lovely grass like that pictured. ~grin~


  2. outstandingbachelor
    Sep 08, 2014 @ 01:44:53

    I serve as a board member for a condo community where I own several rental units (condos) in this community. Several years ago I was provided an invitation to serve – as were all of the homeowners, and I accepted.

    It is a non-paying position, and I work closely with the H.O.A.

    The majority of the work we perform is reviewing bids (landscape, electrical, plumbing) and selecting the lowest price for what we believe is quality work. We recently received a new Reserve Study – a multi-year assessment of financial obligations our community is likely to incur, and juxtaposing that against our current financials.

    Occasionally we called upon to settle owner-tenant related disputes. These are unpleasant, but with cooperation by the owners (of which I am one), readily resolved.

    The association REQUIRES that we have a board; someone has to do it and I willingly stepped forward to volunteer. All of this said. . .in my dealings with my H.O.A., I can categorically state that every decision rendered has been made based upon common business sense and in an effort toward ‘fairness’ and enforcing the rules that every homeowner agreed upon when purchasing his/her property.

    I’ve learned a lot about property management, real estate and now have a great list of contacts for home maintenance.

    If I could give anyone a tip on how to get along with your H.O.A., communicate politely and constructively. Conversely, if you feel that the entire system is run amok, volunteer to serve on the board. You can help us resolve the issues of the day.


  3. marykatbpcsc45
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 00:32:12

    Hi, i have covered HOA as a journalist. I have never lived in one though and would never live in one. I like my freedom and space. Interesting article on what the management company does however. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Gentle Joy
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 12:52:20

    That is one of our “deal breaker” points when looking at houses. If there is a HOA, we will not buy the house! I have a niece who lives in a place where she has to have permission to trim shrubs or plant flowers, etc…. works for them, but we sure don’t want to live under all of that. I am sorry, though, for what you have to endure to do your job… not fun at all.


  5. sarahgirl3
    Sep 14, 2014 @ 16:07:19

    Our neighborhood in GA talks about hiring a company, because it is hard for the volunteer board to do it all. It is good to hear what it is like on your end!


  6. Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
    Sep 14, 2014 @ 23:34:08

    If your neighborhood gets seriously interested in a particular management company, Sarah, check them out thoroughly. Find somebody who lives in a community that they manage and ask how they are about returning calls and responding to emergencies and such. One good thing about a management company is that they have a system in place for dealing with non-payers, so hiring one will generally get the community’s cash reserves into better shape. But people who have been skating by tend to get a rude awakening! Thanks for visiting me.


  7. Mrs. Price
    Sep 16, 2014 @ 08:26:58

    I completely agree. On the flip side I wish the president of my HOA actually followed the rules and understand that he does not rule the community. It is very difficult trying to deal with people who let rules apply to some people but not others.


  8. Mary Contray
    Sep 20, 2014 @ 21:59:33

    Thanks for sharing Sweet Water. Your job is tough. I live in a HOA, hate it, can’t wait to move. Quazi government/business/dictatorship/secrecy/tyranny. It takes a mighty effort to institute any change because many do not want to get involved. 90% of the people who move to HOA’s do not realize what it is and never read the 50-100 page documents or know how it compares to the States Statutes and you need a lawyer just to dissect both.


    • Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
      Sep 20, 2014 @ 23:16:46

      You’re right, we talk to people constantly who had no idea what it meant to buy a deed-restricted home. Occasionally they call and tell us they won’t be paying their assessments because they do not wish to join the HOA. (It’s mandatory. :-) ) But there is not much that the HOA or the management company can do about such people; it’s a case of “let the buyer beware.” When making the most important purchase of his/her life, a responsible home buyer should not just plunge in ignorantly. Thanks for reading and commenting!


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