If you live in a community that a Homeowners Association manages, part of the responsibilities includes charging HOA fees to all residents. This money is used for keeping the property well-maintained and desirable. However, not all HOAs manage communities in the same ways, and some will increase the dues regularly, even if you don’t think it is necessary. This article will give you tips on handling raising HOA fees and any steps you can take to prevent it from happening unfairly.
What Are Homeowners Association (HOA) Fees?
Homeowners association fees refer to the amount of money that some residential property owners must pay monthly to their HOA. These fees are collected to aid the association in the upkeep and improvement of its community.
HOA fees are often associated with gated communities and condominiums, but you can also find a Homeowners Association residing in other types of residential neighborhoods.
How to Handle Raising HOA Fees
Life is unpredictable. Whether you’re unable to pay your HOA fees as a result of the HOA’s decision to raise dues or because you’ve experienced a financial emergency of your own, there are a few options available to you.
Here are some tips for how to handle your raising HOA Fees:
1. Examine Vendor Contracts
You can check the list of vendors who provide regular services to your HOA, such as property management businesses or landscaping firms, in the same way, that you might review your own budget for recurring spending.
They may be assisting in the upkeep of the community, but are they offering you the greatest deal? Again, examine their contracts and encourage service providers to compete for bids. Keep in mind; you don’t have to be a member of the HOA board to express your dissatisfaction.
If you have a problem with growing HOA fees, check your HOA rules to learn how, when, and where to file a complaint. You can persuade the board to take some of the measures mentioned earlier as a dues-paying member of the HOA.
2. Build Community Relationships
The ties you can build with your neighbors are among the most extensive benefits of living in an area with a homeowners organization. You may never speak with any of them, but they all pay the same monthly dues and work to follow the same rules, so you have a lot in common, which could be helpful.
To begin with, if your homeowners’ association begins enforcing violations and demanding fees on a massive scale, you won’t be the only one who feels targeted and compelled to pay. Knowing your neighbors can also help you defend yourself.
It’s not always the association that alerts the community to a homeowner’s infringement; sometimes, it’s a neighbor. For example, if you hang your clothes to dry on a line in an upscale, well-kept neighborhood, a member of your HOA may report you, resulting in fines of hundreds of dollars.
However, if you’ve made friends with your neighbors, they’ll be more likely to approach you before the meeting, and you’ll be able to avoid the awkward situation in front of your peers.
3. Pay Your Dues On Time
It may seem like a high price to pay, but if you don’t pay your HOA dues, the HOA can seize your home. Your association might auction off your home and expel you after foreclosing on it.
Regardless of the dues being raised unfairly, do not opt to ignore the due date while fighting the increase. It’s highly recommended to pay your dues on time accordingly while addressing the issues simultaneously.
4. Board Issues
If your HOA is not responding to written communication, the first thing you should do is make every effort to reach out to the board of directors via phone. If you don’t get any responses, find out if they have a meeting and make sure you attend it.
If they continue to ignore your concerns, you may need legal counsel. If public attention and legal advice fail to persuade your HOA to compromise, you may need to resort to legal action. When the HOA sues a homeowner, it is sometimes unavoidable to go to court.
Unfortunately, legal fees build up on both sides, and the loser is usually the one to foot the bill. Picking fights is a necessary element of the effort, but sometimes even legal action isn’t enough to make an aggressive group back down.
5. Minimize Reserve Funds
During the next HOA meeting, bring up the topic of reserve funds and find out if these can be partially used to offset the raising of HOA fees. In some cases, the reserve funds accumulate more than enough money to suffice any necessary usages.
Consider asking the HOA to use some of the money in the reserve fund to support critical activities if there is enough. For example, the board could use the reserve fund to cover hefty unanticipated fees rather than hiking dues.
6. Postpone Non-Essential Repairs
To avoid increasing HOA costs, talk to the board about postponing non-essential projects. For example, if the repairs aren’t major, try to persuade the council to extend the deadline for completion, especially if they’re only cosmetic.
In the same vein, look over the HOA budget and see what you can eliminate to achieve the lowest HOA costs per family while still covering expenses and reserves.
7. Raising Rates
What should you do if your HOA keeps raising your dues at an alarming rate? Pay them first and foremost. There are just too many risks if you don’t, including foreclosure.
Second, look over the bylaws to see your legal rights. If you can start a thoughtful conversation with the HOA board, do so. Unfortunately, HOAs have a reputation for being rigid in their bylaws, so you might be out of luck if you don’t have a legal basis for your complaint.
In most cases, the HOA will provide the documentation needed upfront to all residents before raising the HOA dues. This is the ideal time to partner with neighbors and review these together to see if there are any unreasonable expenses and make a plan.
The increased rate must be high enough that you are motivated to take legal action because losing outweighs the financial cost and your willingness to comply with future HOA policy changes. The more people who oppose the rate hike, the stronger your case will be.
Join other homeowners concerned about the rate increase and create a strategy to present to the board. As a group, you may engage with a lawyer to represent the case and requirements of all objecting homes.
The board sets the dues rate. If the HOA needs more funds, such as during a recession or keeping facilities up to code, it is more likely to raise rates or penalize homeowners for violations that result in fines.
When An Alternative Is Necessary
High HOA costs can significantly impact your personal budget, making it more challenging to keep up with your utility payments. If you’re having trouble paying your HOA fees, evaluate your budget and see if there are any ways to improve your income or lower your spending.
If your HOA expenses are out of control, you may want to consider selling your house and relocating to an area with no HOA fees. Remember, HOA communities are not for everybody, and you may be happier in one without it.
Most HOA board members do everything they can to avoid raising the HOA dues unexpectedly. Always partner with your community members when you disagree with the increase of fees to see if others feel the same way.
In most cases, an increase in HOA fees is needed to offset the rise in property management, including vendors and maintenance upkeep. Try to speak to your HOA before taking any other actions because it’s better to find a resolution before heading to costly courts.