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Categories: Association LivingPublished On: March 20th, 2024

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As a homeowner in a Utah HOA community, you have more power than you may realize. 

For some homeowners, living in a homeowners association can feel like a maze of rules and regulations. It may seem at times that the HOA simply exists to put up roadblocks that tell you “no”.

This can lead to homeowners feeling powerless when it comes to their own home, but in actual fact, as a homeowner, you have the ability to effect change in your association – and with that ability also comes some responsibility.

Understanding how your HOA functions and the power you hold can set your fears to rest and help you to better contribute to the success and enhancement of your community. 

Homeowner Rights and Responsibilities

As a homeowner, you have the ability to effect change in your association – and with that ability also comes some responsibility

Your Utah HOA Homeowner Responsibilities

As a homeowner, it’s important for you to understand your rights…but you also need to recognize and fulfill your responsibilities. Alongside the privileges that come with owning a home within an HOA, it is essential to understand that you are a member of a larger organization – your community association, and that membership comes with certain responsibilities:

You have a responsibility to pay your assessments

Failing to pay your assessments means that you are putting a burden on your fellow homeowners to pay your share.

A Community Association runs very similarly to a small municipality or government. You have elected officials in the form of the Board of Directors, a set of rules that govern the members of the community in the Governing Documents, and a fixed income in the form of Assessments (or HOA dues). We say it is a fixed income because the HOA’s primary (and sometimes only) source of income is from the Assessments.

The assessments cover all of the services and functions the HOA provides throughout the year. This can include simple items like landscaping and trash removal, but it can also include complex infrastructure like roads and amenities.

The budget takes all of the annual expenses needed and divides them up by the number of homes in the community. The resulting amount is the amount of the annual assessment each homeowner owes. So failing to pay your assessments means that you are putting a burden on your fellow homeowners to pay your share. If too many homeowners fail to pay, and the community cannot cover its expenses, the Board may be forced to make hard decisions, like cutting off services, delaying maintenance, or even levying a special assessment to cover the shortfall.

You have a responsibility to follow the rules & regulations

One of the first issues new HOA homeowners have to confront is that buying a home in an HOA means agreeing to follow the rules and regulations of the community. These can be daunting, and may at first, seem arbitrary. 

Every HOA has a set of governing documents. These documents establish the community’s operational framework, establish the rules, and set forth procedures for enforcement of said rules. 

These rules are not just there to frustrate homeowners. They’re designed to ensure fairness, consistency, and the protection of all community members. Think of them as the foundation the HOA board and management company use to continually improve the quality of life within the community, and help homeowners maintain property values (to increase sale prices).

You have a responsibility to maintain curb appeal

The HOA’s primary job is to make sure home sale prices don’t drop below market value

This is really an extension of responsibility number 2, but it’s important. HOAs are formed by the builder or developer when they build the community. There are many reasons developers choose to create HOAs, from tax breaks to municipal agreements, but one of the biggest reasons developers like to create HOAs is because the HOA protects and enhances the value of the homes in it. In other words, the HOA’s primary job is to make sure home sale prices don’t drop below market value.

One of the biggest ways that HOAs protect home values is to maintain ‘curb appeal’ which simply means the homes in the community all look nice, consistent, and well maintained. This is why nearly all HOAs have some form of Architectural Guidelines included in the Governing Documents. These guidelines define what people can and cannot do to the external aspects of their home, and are designed to maintain curb appeal in the community.

The Architectural Guidelines are generally enforced by a committee appointed by the Board of Directors called the Architectural Control Committee (ACC) or Architectural Review Committee (ARC). The Committee reviews potential external changes to any home in the community to ensure that they meet the Architectural Guidelines set forth in the governing documents.

Prior to making any external changes to your home, you are responsible to check the Architectural Guidelines for the process required by the Architectural Committee, and submit your changes for approval using that process. Start planning projects as soon as possible so you can submit requests early. Being proactive about the approvals process is the best way to avoid issues or delays in starting projects. Not only can that help maintain the curb appeal of the community, it can also save you a lot of headache in the future. 

Your Utah HOA Homeowner Rights

Understanding your rights as a homeowner is crucial to actively participating in the community and protecting your investment into home ownership. These rights not only empower you but also help shape the future of your community. In many ways, these rights are like a civic duty – your contribution can help you make informed decisions, actively engage in community matters, and play a vital role in shaping the future of your neighborhood.

You have the right to attend and speak at open board meetings

Actively engaging in HOA meetings and decision-making processes allows homeowners to contribute their perspectives, share insights, and collectively shape the future of the community. 

Utah law gives you the right to make public comments during open board meetings. That means if the Board of directors is considering an issue that you have an opinion on, you have the right to address the board and share that opinion. 

That doesn’t mean you have a right to disrupt a board meeting. Be respectful of the fact that the board are volunteers – usually other homeowners who also have an interest in making the best decisions for your community. 

You have the right to vote for your representatives on the Board of Directors

As a member of the association, you have the right to vote for your representatives on the Board of Directors. This is also generally done at the annual general meeting. Voting on board members who represent your interests ensures that the management of the association aligns with the priorities of its members.

You have the right to vote on budgetary matters at the annual general meeting

Since the assessments directly impact your pocket, it is in your best interest to make the time to attend, and vote at the annual meeting

As a homeowner in an HOA, you have the right to vote to approve the budget set forth by the Board of Directors during the annual general meeting. You have the right during the annual general meeting to review the proposed expenses for the year and agree to apply the proposed assessments. Since the assessments directly impact your pocket, it is in your best interest to make the time to attend, and vote at the annual meeting.

In rare cases, the Board of Directors may also call a meeting for the whole membership outside of the annual general meeting. These meetings are often to discuss an emergency situation, or a budget shortfall. The Board may need the community members to vote on levying a special assessment (on top of the annual assessment) or on whether to cut services. If your Board calls an emergency meeting for the full membership, you should ALWAYS make the effort to attend and participate.

You (may) have the right to grant a voting proxy

If you are unable to attend a meeting of the general membership, consider granting your voting proxy to a friend or neighbor you trust. Many governing documents require a certain volume of votes in order to pass an amendment to the rules. If not enough members vote on the change, it can fail, even if the majority of those present at the meeting voted for the change. If the governing documents for your community allow it, you can grant your voting proxy to another person to vote on your behalf.

You have the right to volunteer to serve on a committee

Getting involved in the community is a great way to ensure that it meets you and your family’s needs. Every homeowner has the right to volunteer to serve on a committee of the association, contributing your skills and expertise towards creating a thriving community. Volunteering can also be very rewarding!

You Have the right to run for an open seat on the board of directors.

If you wish to contribute to the strategic direction of the association and ensure its governance aligns with your vision, the Board of Directors is the place to be. You have the right to run for an open seat on the Board of.Directors at your community’s Annual General Meeting. Check the governing documents for the procedures you need to follow to throw your hat in the ring.

Working Together, We Can Do Great Things

Homeowners associations are the result of homeowners working together to achieve a common goal

By engaging with your community’s governance, adhering to its policies, and actively participating in the governing process, you can help create an attractive neighborhood, a strong sense of community, and protect your property values.

Homeowners associations don’t exist to impose restrictions. They’re the result of homeowners working together to achieve a common goal: a thriving community that protects and enhances the investments of all its members. 

“For many homeowners, their home is the single biggest investment they will make in their lifetime. The home represents generational wealth that you will pass on to your children, and they will pass on to theirs. Protecting that investment is a common goal every member of the HOA shares”.

Instead of pushing against each other, homeowners, the HOA board, and the management team can embrace our roles in a spirit of collaboration. By working together, we can ensure your community not only maintains appeal and value but continues to flourish for generations to come.

 

At HOA Strategies, we don’t just manage properties; we safeguard investments and help shape the future of the communities we manage through our commitment to strategic planning and meticulous management. Contact us today to see how we can help your community thrive.