To those who condemn HOA’s

/ Owner - October 5, 2023

I constantly see news stories about condo’s and HOA’s that have comments like:  “HOA’s are horrible, I’ll never live in one”, or ” I would never buy in an HOA or Deed Restricted neighborhood” or, “Is there an HOA? Immediate red flag and walk away”, or “We need to get rid of all HOA’s!”.   So let’s get a couple of things straight:

  1. Condo’s and HOA’s are NOT going to go away.
  2. They will continue to be the major percentage of new developments

The U.S. began to see major growth in condominium’s in the ’70’s when the “greatest generation” began to retire.  Those that could afford it and wanted to, moved to a warmer climate and you saw the rapid growth of Florida, Arizona and the Carolina condo’s.  In other states, you saw older apartment buildings that had used up their depreciation, get converted to condo’s for those seniors that couldn’t afford to or didn’t want to, move.  But generally, people who moved into condo’s understood that common areas required a governing body and rules.

Homeowner associations began their boom in the ’80’s.  Why?  Follow the money.  In the 80’s you saw the revolt against property tax increases as home values began to boom.  In addition to capping the property taxes, legislatures began cutting revenue to local governments, who became desperate.  Enter the developers.  They would simply approach the local zoning commission and say, ” You know that property that you have zoned for 4 residential units per acre……well, if you let us build 12 units per acre, we’ll set up a homeowner association that will be responsible for a lot of the services you usually provide to single family homes, like road repairs, trash removal, snow removal, water and sewer line responsibility, etc.  You will get more in tax revenue from 12 homes instead of 4, AND, you will have much lower costs. On top of this we’ll build a common area, maybe with a swimming pool, so you won’t ever have the need to build and take care of a park near them.”

There isn’t a local government in the country that wouldn’t jump at this opportunity and that’s what happened.  New homes came with HOA’s.  And will continue to, as long as homeowners hate tax increases, which means forever.


Condo’s and HOA’s are inanimate objects, consisting of property, structures and documents.  By themselves, they are neither good nor bad.  What makes an association good or bad are the people who live there, and the people they elect to govern.  ALL problems with associations are because of human beings.

This is no different than any other form of government, from local, to county, to state, to Federal, it’s all about the people.  Elect good people and you get a good association.  Elect people with a personal agenda, or bad attitudes, or are just plain stupid, and you have problems.

And the problem is getting worse.  Look at how divided the country is now.  That problem adds to the issues that a board faces when trying to govern.  You see associations that allow “Blue Lives Matter” flags and prohibit “Black Lives Matter” ones.  They suddenly don’t like LGBTQ flags or signs.  How do they handle the popularity of pickup trucks when their original documents prohibit them.  They have documents that require real grass to be kept in pristine condition, but are in areas with water shortages.  If the state has passed a law prohibiting associations from banning political signs, it becomes even more divided and uncomfortable to live in.

This is what happens in a democracy, which associations are.  You have people who like what the association is doing and people who don’t.  People who run for election to govern others and the others who don’t want to get involved.  In the past (during my 50 years working with associations) people dealt with governments that were controlled by the opposition, by trying work with them to try to get some part of what they wanted, and, work toward electing their people in the next election.  Now, you have little or no cooperation, with more anger, threats or withdrawal.  The problems you see in associations are no different than those you see in governments today.  It is just closer to home and more direct.

The only answer I have for this to to try and elect, to your board, the best people you can find, and then try to protect them from residents who hate any form of government ( a growing body) and those who want special treatment.  If you can do this and help the board members from burning out, you will probably have a good, livable association.

You notice that I haven’t dealt with professional management.  Boards provide leadership and oversight for management and, as a result, good boards will make sure management does a good job, bad boards won’t.

The next time you have an election coming up, ask the current board to hold an open meeting, where you can meet and question the people running for the board.  Hopefully you will have choices to make.  All too often, the number of people running for the board is the same number of open seats, so you don’t have a choice.

In associations where I was on the board, I made sure there were a number of committees.  This allowed the board to spread the work out, interact with the owners as they dealt with the issues, and got more people involved in the association.  In other words, an introduction to governing the place they lived.  The more committees, the more it became much easier for the board to get their decisions accepted, because more people were involved.  Also, you can observe the residents and how they work with others, as potential board members.

But, another comparison between association boards and government legislatures, is the absolute hatred of raising assessments (taxes) during their term of office.  For years, Florida law allowed associations to vote on whether to fund their capital reserves or not.  The collapsed condo in Surfside caused the state legislature to scramble out new legislation requiring associations not only to fund the reserves, but to get building inspections that were optional before.  Making up for unfunded reserves and building structural issues raised many assessments through the roof.

This is also probably going to happen in many states when you begin to see more Electric Vehicles being sold than the standard gas-powered.  Very few condo associations are equipped for the needed charging stations.  What is likely to happen is the state legislature will pass some sort of law requiring the association to deal with and they will find themselves paying top dollar to do something rapidly, that they could have planned for and implemented earlier and cheaper. Don’t kick the can down the road!

All of this is to remind you that if you are considering moving into an association, it’s not just the governing documents and budget you need to study.  Talk to people who live there and see if they like it and why, because they will make the difference.

If you want to improve association governance, get the state legislature’s to provide some help, not just  complicated laws that volunteer board members have to learn about, interpret and implement.

  • First, get all of the mandatory membership associations (condo’s, HOA’s, POA’s, etc.) into a separate category with whichever state office handles corporate filings.  This would enable the state and local governments to communicate with them about issues, new legislation, etc.
  • Next, make sure buyer’s know exactly what they are moving into.  Have a list of the major do’s and don’ts and have them sign it at closing, stating that they know they are moving into an association with governing rules and regulations, that they have read them and agree to abide by them.  Remove the “I didn’t know” excuse.
  • It would be great to have a state office that handles minor issues between owners and the association.  Florida’s Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation is one, but the comments I see suggests that is is overloaded and is limited as to what it can or can’t do.  In Canada, many of the provinces have “Civil Resolution Tribunals”  (here is a link to British Columbia’s) which handle many of these disputes. Consider doing this in your state.
  • Local governments should develop workshops with the associations in their area.  Working together to solve problems like Electric Vehicle Charging stations would be a lot easier if the government, power company and association worked together on it.
  • Give board members checklists to help them do those things that are required, like filing annual reports, holding annual meetings, providing the next year’s budget in a timely fashion, etc.  Have the board members sign that the items have been completed and file it with their annual report to the state government.
  • And…..before the state and local government say they can’t afford to help, remind them how much net revenue they’re making off of associations by not providing needed services.

These are just a few ideas to make associations more livable and manageable.  But it will still be up to the people living there to make it a good place to live.


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