So how many of you have heard about the new laws regarding Texas Homeowners Associations (HOAs for short) effective the first of the year? Many of the changes were long overdue and most Texas homeowners will be happy for them. The changes now allow more freedoms when it comes to outdoor displays (flags, religious items) and installation of environmentally friendly systems (solar panels, rain barrels). The changes also make it harder for HOAs to foreclose on homeowners because of unpaid fees and allow for foreclosure protections for active military personnel.
Many of these changes came about after the press shed light on stories of HOAs making over-the-top, heavy-handed or arbitrary enforcement of their rules on homeowners. Recent examples in Texas are the Marine veteran in Houston who was sued by his HOA for flying the American flag, a Jewish couple who’s HOA threatened them with fines over their display of a mezuzah on their doorway, and a National Guard officer in Frisco who had his HOA foreclose on his home when he fell behind in his payments while deployed to Iraq. It’s amazing we have to regulate what many believe to be common sense, but we do–kind of like why HOAs exist in the first place—to protect the interests of a community in maintaining a high standard of living and home values. HOAs have become a basic reality of community life in Texas—especially in the Stone Oak area. However, HOAs often get a bad rap so let’s remember the benefits HOA’s provide to their communities.
First, HOAs provide homeowners a level of certainty their neighborhood will remain attractive over time. Residents don’t have to worry about their neighbor parking a boat, RV, or commercial vehicle for a lengthy period time outside their home. They also don’t have to worry about bad home paint jobs or overgrown lawns. The second good thing HOAs do is provide neighborhood recreational amenities such as a pool, tennis courts, a park or playground, and community centers many residents could not afford on their own. Finally, HOAs are beneficial in providing a variety of services to their communities, including maintenance on common areas and management of the recreational amenities.
No two HOAs are the same and many neighborhoods have more than one. They can be more or less restrictive, run by the property management company or the homeowners themselves. Whenever considering buying a home in a HOA community, read the HOA restrictions keeping in mind the rules imposed on your neighbors will also be imposed on you. Most importantly, know your rights.
image courtesy of Lars Ploughmann