If you’re planning to move into a condo or any planned development, it’s important to understand the difference between a condo association (CA) and a homeowner’s association (HOA). Most of us tend to confuse these terms because (a) they sound similar and (b) they’re often used interchangeably. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your property will be managed by one of these associations if you move into a planned development community. Read on to learn more about what each term means for you as a homeowner.
What’s the difference between a CA and an HOA?
All the common areas in your building or complex are available to everyone. So, it only makes sense that they’re managed by an association which represents the whole community. However, condo associations mostly delegate power to the board of directors with little involvement from the broader community. This makes life easier for homeowners because you don’t have to worry about replacements, repairs and other elements of daily maintenance. But it also means that you’re out of touch with issues like fund expenditure and the capacity of your insurance coverage. Most people prefer this arrangement because of the convenience it provides, so it’s a catch-22.
Homeowners in HOA managed developments tend to have more access to the board of directors. This means you have a better chance of taking part in major decision-making.
It’s important to note that HOAs typically administer single-family units in planned developments. Most of these communities appeal to families, retirees, and similar homeowners.
Meanwhile, CA’s manage multiple unit developments like condos and apartments, which are marketed to students, busy execs, working professionals, etc. This demographic is usually uninterested in the daily operation of the condo building. As long as everything works smoothly, they won’t really bother to check what kind of insurance policy is used or how much is in the CAs emergency fund.
Condominium associations manage the repairs and maintenance of all common areas. This includes areas such as lobbies, parking lots, swimming pools, elevators, roofs, and sidewalks.
The only thing you have to pay for in a CA managed property is the replacement, repair and maintenance costs of your unit’s interior. The CA takes care of deck maintenance and repairs to roofs and siding.
Similarly, HOAs maintain and repair common areas including playgrounds, landscaping, and sidewalks. Some HOAs will even repair and maintain the landscaping on individual units, but this is rare.
In most cases, HOAs require homeowners to maintain the exterior of their own units including the roof, siding, and landscaping. This means added financial pressure on the homeowner and it can annoy you if you’re not a “handy” person.
Condo associations are managed by an elected board of directors who carry out most of the association’s responsibilities. This includes maintaining an umbrella insurance policy and taking care of financial coverage for unexpected events, and maintenance of designated areas.
The main role of an HOA board is to enforce the community’s Covenants, Conditions &Restrictions (CC&S’s) similarly to the condo association.
Fees and Designations
The amount that condo owners have to pay in fees depends on the common expenses of the overall condo community. This amount is further divided by the number of units within the development. Based on how large your unit is, you might pay more or less than your neighbor in monthly expenses.
The board of directors within an HOA determines the amount that homeowners have to pay in assessments and annual fees. This amount must be in line with the community’s CC&R’s.
When you pay your condo association fees, you’re basically paying for insurance costs and maintenance of common areas, trash, sewer, water, and even WiFi. The latter costs aren’t included in an HOA arrangement which is why they have lower annual fees.
Condo associations and homeowner’s associations also differ in how they enforce rules and regulations. For instance, let’s say a unit owner living in an HOA managed community paints their home in a color that goes against the community’s approved aesthetic standards. Even if the board orders the homeowner to repaint the wall, they don’t have the resources needed to legally enforce their ruling. This means should the homeowner refuse, there’s nothing the HOA board can do about it.
If the same scenario were to play out in a CA managed property, the CA would have the resources in place to sue the unit owner. That’s why most CA managed properties tend to have a higher perceived value compared to HOA properties.
Tips on moving into a CA or HOA managed property
Here’s some additional information to consider before you sign on the dotted line whether you’re moving into an HOA or CA-managed development.
– Do your research
When moving into a planned development community, it’s important to make sure it’s managed by a reputable HOA or CA. This enhances the resale value of your home which is an asset and an investment.
We recommend you do your research on the association in question to make sure it reflects positively on property.
– Breaking the rules
What happens if a particular homeowner does not comply with the communal CC&R’s? There are built-in clauses within the association’s documents which outline the consequences of undesirable behavior. This means no-one can bring down the neighborhood or resale value of the homes in your planned development community without facing predetermined consequences.
Keep in mind that condo association rules and regulations are not only determined by unit owners but by the condominium laws of the specific state or province you live in.
How do you know if the regulations in your CA or HOA declaration are supported by a specific law? Well, it has to reference a state or national law or statute.
What does this mean for you? It means that if you break a rule within the association’s declaration, which also aligns with state or provincial law, the CA or HOA board may take legal action against you.
Each association operates according to a predetermined set of rules and regulations, which are set out in the CC&R or declaration documents. Depending on the HOA or CA in question, these documents may be sparse or detailed. In a lot of cases, association documents may lack basic details like the expected roles of the board of directors. This creates chaos as it leaves unit owners to their own devices and means they must enforce the CC&R’s on their own.
Initially, the developers come up with the association’s declaration documents. But, once they have sold all the units, the developers hand management of the association over to the unit owners, who can update the documents or continue to use them as they are.
It’s important to read the documents you’re handed before you move into any planned community development because you never know what’s contained within.
Whether you live in a CA or HOA managed property, you can have peace of mind knowing that the neighborhood is managed by an association that represents your interests. Regardless of the structure, both associations are made up of an elected board of directors whose members co me from within the community.