Paying your dues
The emergence of many master-planned communities and condos around Oahu means most homeowners now will be subject to a Homeowners' Association (HOA). This can be beneficial to residents, but if you're not used to a neighborhood that's governed by rules, it may take some mental adjustment. Here are a few pros and cons, if you're shopping in areas that have associations:
- The covenants, conditions and restrictions of an HOA are designed to protect the value of your home, and maintain order in your community and your enjoyment of it. This could mean you or your neighbor are restricted from erecting an unsightly fountain in the front yard, parking abandoned vehicles on the lawn or even having a pet.
- Homes in HOA-governed communities are generally well maintained.
- An HOA will maintain the common areas of your community or building: the front lobby and the pool, the elevator lobby and hallways, and the drive leading into your development.
- HOA communities often have the shared use of pools and party facilities that are maintained by the association. Think "private pool" without the work.
- If you have a dispute with a neighbor over the use or look of his or her property or his barking dog, you can take the matter to the homeowners' association for intervention.
- HOA dues may pay for shared services like security, trash pickup, and landscaping.
- Membership is mandatory for all HOA homeowners. Ask the realtor for the monthly dues or maintenance fees before you buy, as you need to consider them part of your expenses.
- You must pay membership dues. These dues may increase periodically if the community or building needs additional upgrades. Find out what they cover, what they don't cover and how likely they are to rise.
- You may have less say in how you can change the appearance of your home. Your association may have a regulation against fencing your backyard, installing a pool or painting your front door red. It may even restrict when you can water and cut your lawn.
- An association might not allow pets. Some condos may issue a weight restriction for pets.
- This doesn't happen a lot, but homeowners looking to rent out their residence may not be able to do so under association rules.
- If you disregard the rules-for example, paint that door red or get a German shepherd- the association can levy a fine.
- If you don't pay your dues or fines, the HOA may even try to foreclose on your home.
- In some cases, there may be charges of unscrupulous behavior against HOAs. Check to see if there is any litigation pending against the HOA and check its financials as well as its recent assessments (for community fixes or upgrades). This is a little extreme and Honolulu's a small town, but if your spider sense is tingling, you may want to act on it and check it out.