When you're looking for a home to rent, what are your top qualifications? Most likely, you're looking for a certain number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and amount of space. You may have kitchen layouts you like best, want a yard for a dog, or need a closing garage. You probably know the kind of floors and floorplan you like best and browse as much through photos as listed details. Most renters prioritize homes based on meeting their size, style, location, and budget needs. Anything that hits all points is on the board.
But what about homes that are inside HOA neighborhoods? If you're shopping to buy a home, HOA vs no HOA is a very important question. But it matters to renters more than you realize. Home Owners Associations don't just build pools and throw parties. They own the lots, charge dues, throw parties, and set neighborhood policies. This directly impacts your landlord, as the homeowner.
And if there's one thing experienced renters now is: If it affects your landlord, it will affect you down the line. That is why it's important to know if your rental home is inside an HOA. Let's dive into the details, what you should know, and what you can do about it.
What is an HOA?
HOA stands for Home Owner's Association. It is an organization in which every homeowner in the neighborhood is a member. They each have a vote that can influence how the neighborhood is run. It is intended to be a governing body for the neighborhood that will provide amenities and act for the good of everyone's property values.
However, HOAs are more than that. HOAs are usually founded by the construction companies that built the homes. Each homeowner that buys a house from the company becomes a founding member. Sometimes, early homeowners dissolve the HOA immediately. Most of the time, they form a committee and begin making rules or evolve the initial rules established by the company.
An HOA actually owns the land each house is on. It charges dues and owner-members don't have a choice but to pay. If dues or fees aren't paid, the home can be foreclosed on and auctioned against the will of the owner. It's important to know this, because that's how serious it can get for your landlord if a renter clashes with an HOA or racks up fees. We'll come back to that.
In best-case scenarios, HOAs are active committees of neighbor-homeowners. They turn dues into maintenance for neighborhood assets and plan holiday parties for local families. But there are also a few HOAs that are currently poorly managed and seeking trouble with residents through fees and restrictions.
Landlords are HOA Members
For renters, the most important thing to remember is that your landlord is the homeowner-member of the HOA. This is for two reasons. First, your landlord is the one who gets fined and foreclosed if the HOA takes exception. Second, you hold a strange position as a neighborhood resident non-member.
- Your Landlord is On the Hook
HOAs can have some crazy rules, and if those rules are broken you aren't the one on the hook. Your landlord is held accountable for the home (and you, the residents) adhering to the neighborhood rules. Even if those rules are weird or restrictive. So even if the rules are unreasonable, like needing to keep your grass below 2 inches, your landlord gets fined if you don't mow.
So be courteous and understanding. Your landlord of an HOA home might not be rigid. They might not have a choice about some of the crazy rules in the lease.
- You Are a Guest in the Neighborhood
Next, your place in the HOA neighborhood is unique as a renter. Your landlord is welcome to share the neighborhood amenities with their guests. As a renter, you are their guest. Therefore, you have a right to use the pool, playgrounds, clubhouse, and to attend neighborhood events. But you don't have a place at HOA member meetings or voting events. If your landlord wants to get involved in neighborhood politics, they are the only ones who can do this. Because renters are HOA guests, and your landlord is responsible for your behaviors and for voting on your behalf.
How HOAs Can Impact Your Renter Experience
So that's how HOAs relate to renters on a broad scale. Now let's zoom down into the micro. How can an HOA impact your day-to-day experience of a home, neighborhood, and landlord relationships?
On one hand, you gain the benefit of the neighborhood amenities. These aren't just city parks. The dues and fees charged to your landlord and all local homeowners are used to build and maintain things like pools and playgrounds. Your family can enjoy those amenities every day you care to leave the house.
On the other hand, HOAs always extend restrictions. Good HOA restrictions are usually so reasonable that you never notice, meant only to limit insane or disruptive behavior. More challenging HOAs may have strange rules about maintaining the community style, decorum, and population.
- Neighborhood Sidewalks and Parks
If your rental home is in an HOA neighborhood and there are nice, well-maintained sidewalks; that's not a coincidence. Sidewalks and parks are often the first things that HOAs invest in, and are also a hallmark of the construction teams that build HOA neighborhoods in the first place. These family-friendly features are easy to overlook but are an essential benefit of HOA neighborhoods.
In fact, if your home has nice sidewalks outside and you're not sure it's in an HOA, there's a better than even chance that it is.
- Community Events
When your neighborhood HOA throws a Halloween party for local families or throws a summer concert in the park, your family is welcome to attend. You are guests of a member by proxy through the rental agreement. Your family are welcome to enjoy all the events and etiquette that are available to all other residents in the neighborhood.
- Custom Amenities
Every HOA builds their amenities a little differently. Many have playgrounds, some have pools, a few even have skate parks. Some have little water parks. Some have dog parks and agility parks. Some have semi-wild bike paths between the backyards. The personality of the HOA neighborhood will shape the custom amenities you have access to.
- Rental Resident Limits
The most profound impact an HOA has on renters is limiting the number of homes that can be rented. This is a common rule in HOA neighborhoods; that only a percentage or ratio of homes in the neighborhood can be rented to non-owner-residents. This keeps the neighborhoods primarily populated by people who own the homes they live in.
Rental limitation policies keep the number of available homes in each neighborhood low. If the council votes to reduce the rental limit number, then your landlord might even be forced to deny the next lease to meet the new rental quota.
- Pet Owner Rules
HOAs and similar condo associations are well-known for writing limitations about neighborhood pets. HOAs may decide that households can only have a certain number of pets, or ban certain breeds of pets that they deem are dangerous. HOAs are also known for pursuing pet restriction violations with more zeal than residents consider to be reasonable.
Rules of pet ownership made by the HOA may be the reason that your landlord has strange pet restrictions in the home.
- Curb Appearance Guidelines
Here's one that catches renters and homeowners by surprise all the time: Curb appeal restrictions. HOAs often focus on maintaining the property value of all homes in the neighborhood, which can sometimes mean keeping one home from standing out or "looking tacky".
For this reason, HOAs often define how homes can look, including how they are landscaped and decorated. So your landlord may or may not let you know that changing the way the (front of the) home looks is not an option. If you are staying in an HOA home, changing the front yard significantly is a risk. Keep your outdoor activities in the backyard.
- Activity and Noise Limitations
Every city or county has laws relating to noise, curfew, and disruptive behaviors. HOAs can also write their own rules for neighborly conduct. HOAs often have quiet hours, rules about loud music and parties, and sometimes even restrictions to activities. A few famous HOA incidents have involved banned clotheslines, backyard construction, and parking in the driveway. Yes. HOAs can have strange rules of residence.
- Holiday Decoration Restrictions
Lastly, keep the HOA in mind when decorating around the holidays. HOAs often like to decorate in a unified way, like putting candy canes by every mailbox or a wreath on every door during the Holiday season. HOAs sometimes hold home decorating contests, but they've also been known to stop homeowners from decorating enthusiastically or religiously.
Your HOA may not care about holiday decorations, but there's a chance that they will choose to care this year.
- Mandatory Neighborhood Participation
Finally, there may be certain things that you are required or strongly encouraged to participate in. If your HOA throws a party that closes the roads, for example, your street will still be closed. If your HOA hangs a wreath on every door, you may be required to leave that wreath in place, as your landlord-member's proxy in the home.
How to Ace HOA Home Renting
HOA homes are often nicer and surrounded by valuable family neighborhood amenities. If your lifestyle is in tune with the HOA's management style, then an HOA can be a truly rewarding place to rent a home. But it's worthwhile to be aware. The last thing you want is to discover that a home you've already leased is run by an HOA you clash with.
Be aware of your HOA and it's rules in how they impact your landlord. Be considerate if your landlord has a few strange non-negotiable rules passed down from the neighborhood. And when all that is taken care of, kick back and enjoy the local pools and playgrounds paid for by everyone else's homeowner dues. You get all the plush perks of living in an HOA and none of the hassle of being an owner-member.
Looking for a perfect match for your next rental home? Contact VerticalRent today! Our team specializes in matching renters with great landlords and compatible roommates wherever you are house-hunting today.
About the author
Matt Angerer is the Founder and President of VerticalRent. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics that help Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters across America. He is particularly interested in helping renters understand their local marketplace, pick the best places to live, and find an awesome roommate. Since 2011, VerticalRent has grown to service over 100,000 landlords and renters across America.