You’re Now a Member of an HOA (Homeowners Association). What Exactly Does That Mean?

We’ve all seen the GEICO commercial in which “Cynthia” reprimands newbies of the neighborhood about seemingly silly protocol. 

If you’ve got a sense of humor and a stiff backbone, you will relate to how those neighborhood rules can be a bane. “Violation!” (Cynthia’s favorite word) takes on a new meaning. The reality is there are a bunch of Cynthias just waiting for you, as a new resident, to break or bend the rules so they can tattle. 

Some people live by rules. Others learn how it’s necessary sometimes to just follow them to keep the peace. Especially when you are now part of an organized community. (Some love to push buttons and boundaries, and make their spouses cringe!)

HOAs (Homeowners Associations) or often called COAs (Condominium Owners Association) are there to protect your personal interests, such as property values, curb appeal and general tidiness. Often, however, there is a fine line between what’s appropriate and sterile versus peoples’ personal choices. 

A good example is our recent Flag Day, annually celebrated on June 14th. While there is a ban in my own neighborhood on decorative flags that make a statement, who in their right patriotic mind would argue that an American flag is banned or inappropriate in front of a proud owner’s  home?  Such are the idiosyncrasies of HOA rules, where mere patriotism can conflict with aesthetic rules governed by the neighborhood’s well-meaning rules. 

Advice dished out to me when we first moved into a foreign concept known as HOA/COA rules was this: follow wisely and respectfully, but stick up for your own beliefs and rights, such as flying the American flag on national holidays, or planting that hydrangea right where you know it will thrive. 

Rules abound and must be followed. It’s what we actually signed up for to represent consistency and order. But there is a long list of pros as HOAs have so many advantages perhaps overlooked: trash removal, de-icing, lawn maintenance, doggie waste bags and repositories to mention just a few of the amenities HOAs offer.  

The best advice I was offered as a new resident not used to such discipline was this: “You pay royally for the conveniences. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” My mother said that all through my childhood, but it wasn’t until I started paying those monthly HOA fees that I completely understood that concept. Paying for those conveniences is well worth those dues.  

Enjoy. If you’re as lucky as we are, your HOA means no more shovelling snow, raking leaves and mowing lawns!

by Bridget Fitzpatrick

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