What is a Homeowner Association? 

An HOA or Homeowner Association is a legal entity created to manage and maintain the common areas of a community. Typically these "common areas" consist of things like pools, clubhouses, walls & fences, landscaping, parks, streets and roads.

HOAs can consist of single family homes, condominiums, or town homes and are typically setup by the original developer of the community with a set of rules called "Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions" otherwise known as "CC&Rs".

One of the primary functions of the HOA is enforce and ensure that these "CC&Rs" are adhered to by the individual homeowners. The guiding principal of these regulations are normally to help maintain property values and the quality of life within the community. 

Decisions concerning homeowner association operations are made by a volunteer Board of Directors elected by the community residents during the annual meeting of the membership.

What is the Role of The Board of Directors?

As the oversight body that governs the association is it’s Board of Directors. The Board are members of the Association who are elected by the members. The Board has a fiduciary responsibility to implement community covenants and ensure that funds are properly budgeted, collected and spent. The Board is also responsible for decisions pertaining to maintenance of common areas, landscaping and similar services.

The board sets the frequency of its meetings in accordance with provisions contained in the California Civil Code (CC) and the California Corporations Code (Corp C), taking into account the association needs. Regular session board meetings are open to all homeowners, with time provided on the agenda for homeowner input. Depending on the structure of the community, there may be opportunities for committee participation by residents in an advisory capacity.

What is the role of the Management Company?

The management company takes direction from the board of directors.  The tasks the management company performs for the homeowners association are specified in the contract between the homeowners association and the management company.  The management company enters into a contract with the homeowners association based on the services your board of directors desires to have performed.

Every homeowners association has different wants and needs.  Common duties performed by the management company are accounting services, budget recommendations, vendor oversight, violations enforcement and community inspections.  It is also common for the management company to serve as a point of contact for all owner requests and concerns.  The management company typically attends board meetings and communicates with the board on a regular basis through email and phone calls.

Your management company does not select which vendors serve your homeowners association nor should your management company sign any contracts with those vendors. Those duties are reserved for the board of directors.  A good management company should do all of the research for your board of directors, present that information in a timely and professional manner, and then wait for the board of directors to make a decision. The management company takes all direction from the homeowner elected board of directors.

What is the Role of a Homeowner?

Although board members run community associations, governing documents and the law often reserve certain powers for the owners. For example, there are often provisions in the governing documents and the law stating that the owners must elect the board members. Also, some governing documents only permit owners to fill vacant positions on the board.

It is the owners—not the board members—who generally have the power to amend the declaration (master deed) or proprietary lease. The owners also may have the power to amend particular provisions of the bylaws, such as those dealing with the assessments and sale of common property. This usually requires consent from a specified percentage of the owners.

Along with these rights come obligations. The owners are obligated to adhere to the restrictions imposed in the governing documents. If they do not, a court can force them to comply.

Owners are also obligated to share in the financial operation of the community by paying their assessments on time. If they do not, the association may file a lien on their home and they may lose their home through foreclosure.

Although the owners do not have a legal obligation to actively participate in the association, the association will not be able to function if no one participates. Therefore, it is important for the board to foster a sense of community spirit to encourage participation.

Do I Have To Belong To The Homeowner Association?
All homeowners who own a unit, home or lot within a community association automatically become a member of the community association when they make their purchase and close escrow. It is not a choice of the buyer. Owners are responsible to pay the monthly assessment, which covers the costs associated with operating a community association and provides benefits as well as restrictions on each owner. 

What is An Assessment?

The assessment (sometimes called dues) is the monthly amount paid from each homeowner to the Association in order to cover the operating expenses of the common area and provide for reserve funds for replacement of common facilities in future years. Your assessments are typically due on the first of the month and are billed by your management company. Failure to make timely payment of your assessment can often lead to collection proceedings, liens and even foreclosure.