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 homeowners association (HOA). These terms may be used interchangeably because (a) they sound similar and (b) condos can be a part of HOAs. Read on to learn more about what each term means for you as an owner.
Table of contents
- What’s the difference between a CA and an HOA?
- Tips when moving into a CA or HOA
What’s the difference between a CA and an HOA?
Every condo unit belongs to an association or corporation. However not all single-family homes belong to governed communities. Interested buyers will be informed, often by their realtor, if the home they are interested in belongs to an HOA.
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.
While condo fees are used for common area repairs, owners still have to pay for the replacement, repair and maintenance costs of anything inside of their units. The CA may or may not take care of balcony maintenance and repairs to roofs and siding, depending on what the CC&Rs say.
Similarly, HOAs maintain and repair common areas including playgrounds, landscaping, and sidewalks. However, there are often fewer common areas to care for in a single-family home development. Some HOAs will even repair and maintain the landscaping on individual units, but this is rare.
In many cases, HOAs require owners to maintain the exterior of their own units including the roof, siding, and landscaping. This means added financial pressure on the individual homeowner.
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.
HOA boards are tasked with the same responsibilities. Both may hire management companies to help with day-to-day operations such as enforcing the community’s Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs). Some managers may specialize in condo operations, while others specialize in HOA management.
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 also dependant on the size of the owner’s unit. For example, someone with a 3-bedroom unit will pay more in condo fees than someone who owns a 1-bedroom unit.
Conversely, HOA fees are usually divided equally, regardless of how big the home is. That’s because properties belonging to developed communities are usually similar. In many cases, HOA fees cover some common utilities, such as water/sewer fees and garbage disposal. Condo fees definitely cover these utility fees.
Condo associations and homeowners associations may differ when it comes to what is and what is not allowed. For instance, HOAs have a lot of stringent rules about what an owner can do with the outside of their home. Most would not permit an owner to paint the outside of their home bright yellow.
Condo communities don’t have to think about these kinds of problems since condo owners share the property outside of their units. They may have to be much more vigilant about enforcing noise or nuisance rules though since neighbors are in much closer proximity of one another.
Tips on moving into a CA or HOA managed property
Here is some additional information to consider before you sign on the dotted line. Whether you’re moving into an HOA or CA, make sure you understand what will be expected of you as an owner before you purchase a property.
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 is financially stable and values have trended upwards.
Be prepared to follow the rules
What happens if a particular homeowner does not comply with the governing documents? There are built-in clauses within the association’s documents that 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 penalties.
Keep in mind that both condo and HOA rules and regulations are not only determined by unit owners, but by the laws of the specific state or province you live in. State laws always trump association rules, but communities can create stricter rules as long as they don’t contradict the state laws.
What does this mean for you? It means that if you break a rule within the association’s declaration, the CA or HOA board may take actions to ensure you change your behavior/comply with the rule you broke. There may even be rare cases where the association can take legal action against you.
Check the governing documents
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 extremely comprehensive.
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.
There are times where association documents may lack clear details about certain processes or expectations, especially if the rule or bylaw is old. This creates uncertainty and conflict as it requires boards or management to interpret the rules; each person might have a different understanding of what those rules mean.
It’s important to read the documents you’re handed before you move into any planned community development to ensure you can live with the bylaws rules that you are expected to follow. Some communities might have limits on pets or what types of vehicles you can park in your driveway, and a few of those rules might be a deal breaker for you.
Whether you live in a CA or HOA, you can have peace of mind knowing that the neighborhood is managed by an association that represents the best interests of the development. Regardless of the structure, you will be expected to pay fees and follow rules in exchange for access to amenities, services and a sense of community.