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When looking at houses, it’s common to think about things like square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and the size of the backyard. Something that may not immediately come to mind are the rules of the neighborhood and whether you have to join a homeowners association (HOA).

HOAs are among the most controversial topics in homeownership. Some people love the services an association provides. Others may detest paying monthly dues and being under HOA supervision.

If you happen to fall into the latter group, we’ll go over when you may have the option to opt out of the HOA. If you choose just not to pay your dues, we’ll discuss the actions the association may be able to take against you.

What’s the Potential Benefit of an HOA?

If you’re looking to buy or if you already own a home with no HOA dues, you most likely are responsible for mowing your lawn, shoveling your driveway and doing general upkeep of your property. If you live in an establishment such as a condo that has monthly HOA dues, the association is most likely responsible for the general upkeep.

That’s where HOA dues come into play. As with most things in life, there’s a price to pay. Each association has different policies. Some HOA dues even include city services such as trash removal. Insurance could also be part of the equation.

How to Get Out of an HOA Contract

If you don’t want to be in a homeowners association or can’t afford it, the easiest option is not to join one in the first place. However, depending on the rules associated with your neighborhood, joining may be compulsory.

When you look at a home, if the neighborhood has rules, you should ask for a copy of the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). If these covenants say you must join the association, you don’t have a choice, assuming you want that house.

Whether you can opt out or not depends on the rules. You may be able to opt out of certain services and save money on your dues.

If you feel you’re in compliance and being unfairly singled out by your association, you may want to get an attorney involved to do anything from file a formal written complaint to pursue legal action if necessary. The same goes if you think that any provision of the rules isn’t legally enforceable or that the association isn’t holding up its end of the bargain.

Can I Negotiate HOA Fees?

You really can’t negotiate HOA fees on an individual basis. The only thing you can do is vote on matters that come before residents. In order to have real negotiating power, you have to get on the association board.

By being on the board, you have an increased voice on how money is spent, but it also comes with increased responsibility. If you think you can get a better rate for pool cleaning or property management, you’re now the person in charge of sourcing those services to bring the proposal to the rest of the stakeholders in the neighborhood.

One thing every resident can do is request a copy of the budget to see where money is going. Having an accurate picture of the current situation will help you make informed decisions when things come up for a vote.

Do HOA Fees Ever Go Away?

Once an association is started in a neighborhood or condo complex, fees for members of that HOA are ongoing until the association dissolves. This makes sense because the association’s mission is to provide ongoing services.

Most of the time, you’ll have the HOA fees for as long as you stay in the home.

What Happens When You Don’t Pay HOA Fees?

First off, I’d recommend not taking this route. However, there may be certain extenuating circumstances that leave few or  no options. While different states have different laws, there are some fundamental steps that will most likely take place.

For starters, HOA boards don’t typically wait around. If you miss a payment, you can expect to receive a letter stating that you have an outstanding debt. There may even be details about the next steps the board will take to recoup the dues. As with other missed payments, you can also expect to be charged a late fee plus interest.

That’s only the beginning, though. Your rights as a homeowner can be suspended in the community. If your association has common areas such as a pool or clubhouse, your right to use such areas could be revoked, along with your right to vote on HOA matters.

If you have a vacation property that you rent out part of the year, you can expect to have the money you thought you’d be getting for rent go directly to your unpaid dues. However, once you’re caught up on your HOA dues, you’ll start receiving your money again.

The above consequences are serious, yes. As you’ll find out, though, it can get a whole lot worse. For example, the association can file a lien on your property. If you sell the property, the lien and any other fees will be deducted before you get your money.

In some states, you can be evicted from your property, although this only occurs in drastic situations. In this case, the association would rent out your unit or home until you are all caught up on your payments. In rare instances, your property can also be foreclosed on. Associations typically try to avoid this route, as the responsibility for all taxes and utilities falls to the HOA.

To avoid any consequences, there are steps you can take. The first thing you can do is keep an open line of communication between you and the association. If you know you’re going to be late or miss a payment, let your board know ASAP. Some boards will work with you to come up with a payment plan.

Now, we want to hear from you. Do you have any other tips when it comes to dealing with HOA dues? Let us know in the comments below! If you’re in a market for a home with or without HOA dues, talk to a Home Loan Expert today!

This Post Has 99 Comments

  1. My HOA fees have increased $15/month over the last 3 years. The upkeep has gone down each year – the playground is not well kept, and my husband mows the patch of grass between our sidewalk and the road as well as the easement. We do not have a pool or clubhouse. I have called and left a message for the representative to call me back. I have yet to receive a response. I have auto-pay set up, but I am pretty upset that this rate keeps increasing. There is a much higher end neighborhood nearby with a nice playground, dog walk and a pool, and their HOA fees are less than my neighborhood’s fees. How can I be 100% certain that I am legally required to pay these fees? They have NEVER done anything for me. I’ve called them about things on a few occasions and never receive a call back unless they are looking for money.

    1. Hi Jamie:

      In terms of whether you legally required to pay the fees, you should have received documentation that you had to agree to when you bought your home. If you don’t have it, you should be able to ask for a copy as well as a copy of what the association is responsible for. If they’re not keeping their end of the bargain, you may be able to take some legal action. There has to be someone running the association or you can go to the meetings and make sure your thoughts are known.

      Kevin Graham

  2. I own a plot with a house on it and a plot next to it which is empty. I have been here 15 years and for the first time this year I received an HOA demand on both plots. Can they just decide to do this now on a whim?

    1. Hi Gilly:

      I would think you should have received some notification that there was intent to form a homeowners association. If you didn’t receive notification, the first thing I would do is see if there’s a way you can opt out. I would then go from there.

      Kevin Graham

  3. I have two condo spaces and my property is in a modification foreclosure. do the condo have the right to stop me from getting parking stickers to have my legally parked in my two attached condo spaces? should i get a lawyer to file for discriminating use of my parking spaces?

    1. Hey Robert:

      I’m definitely not a foreclosure expert and local laws vary. You’re definitely going to want to consult someone. That being said, if you’re going through the foreclosure process, at some point you do get evicted from the property and it’s no longer under your control. It sounds like you’ve gone beyond modification already. I would consult a lawyer to determine exactly what your rights are.

      Kevin Graham

      1. We are about to suspend an owners right to park on our common area parking due to his being 6 months in arrears on HOA fees. We are only a 4 unit condo and have no amenities, such as. Club house, pool, etc. so his share is 25% of our monies.
        We plan to have his vehicle towed away at his expense when he violates the ban

        1. Hi Virginia:

          I’m not sure if you have a specific question, but you’re allowed to do whatever is stipulated in your original agreement. Hope this helps!


  4. Greetings
    My teenage son had a large gathering of teens parting in the clubhouse, I was notified and cleared everyone out, next day spoke to the management company about it they said they will send me a cleaning bill then the board shut off my access to the pool and clubhouse stating they will provide a bill and close my access forever I was told by one of the board member’s ,, what are my rights as a paying condo owner here anyone please thank you total mess ,, mind no damage just some cleaning ,,, they are acting like some sort of gang

    1. Hi Jon:

      I wish I had the answer to that question, but it really depends on what’s stated in the bylaws. Then there’s the matter of whether you can legally challenge anything in the bylaws themselves. Unfortunately, you would need to get a copy of the bylaws yourself to review and then possibly get a lawyer involved. That’s the best advice I can give you.

      Kevin Graham

  5. Wow so we may have just made the worst mistake of our lives. We recently bought a condo thats very similar to a townhouse. We were extremely pleased when we read there was no large dogs over 40 lbs or pitbulls allowed. Well of course our neighbor just got a massive aggressive pitbull. It frequently gets out and seems very aggressive lunging at us as it walks by. I called the HOA and they say they voted and decided to call it a Bulldog because it’s a mix although its mixed with similar breeds to the pitbull as well as being mostly pitbull. Do I have a case? I call and complain everytime its running loose but I am still very mad. The kids of the neighborhood are very fearful as am I. They said it was DNA tested but refused to give me any results or details. Except that its was mix and mostly pitbull and that their idiotic vote was final.

    1. Hi Sam:

      I’m going to preface this by saying I’m not a lawyer. An attorney would know better about any legal action that could be taken in your local area. If they voted on an exception to the bylaws, there should be a record of the vote. If they have that, you may have to go with it, but I would make them produce it. Again, I’m not sure what kind of legal options you would have.

      Kevin Graham

      1. Your best and first course of action should be, when the dog “get’s out” and is running around, call animal control. Tell them there is a pitbull running around. Most state’s and cities have leash laws, dog’s are not allowed to be running around free. The owner will be fined, the dog will be incarcerated for at least a short period of time, and usually after the 3rd time the dog will not be released again.

  6. I have a time share that has a homeowners as well.
    I do pay my HOA on a yearly basis but lately since i do not use it anymore. i plan not to pay the HOA fee. what will happen?
    According to the previous thread, a lien can be added to the property once it is sold. but what if i do not really have any more interest in the property or owning it? it is fully paid.
    is there any future financial impact on me? other than losing the property?

    1. Hi Jake:

      You could definitely lose the property. The unpaid dues could also impact your ability to apply for credit in the future. You may also run into trouble if you try to sell your share of the timeshare. I wouldn’t advise doing this necessarily.

      Kevin Graham

  7. I haven’t received a bill for my HOA dues in 6 years and just now received one. They have added up the “non payments” including late fees. Is this legal? if i never received a bill how can they expected full payment now?

    1. Hi Josh:

      I would write a letter inquiring why you haven’t received a bill until now. You may be able to negotiate a payment arrangement. As far as what’s legal, you may have to consult an attorney in your state.

      Kevin Graham

  8. My HOA has gone up 60$ due to financial hardship I am unable to pay the amount. I can’t afford it. I sent my HOA a letter letting them know I can’t afford it. What Can I do. I can pay the original about but not the increase.

    1. Hi Danyelle:

      Did they respond? They may be able to work out an arrangement with you. That’s really the best advice I can give.

      Kevin Graham

    2. I think the best solution is to avoid at all costs HOA. Buy a cheap land which you solely own, live like the Mayans nature way or the other modern way build your house so you have more power then HOA.

    3. HOA really disgusts me it’s pretty sickening, sure maintenance fees sometimes are required but it seems like they NEVER ever have a deadline of the increases. It’s always always increasing and never decreasing – that’s like robbing for no reason. Very hard for elders to live like this and it’s a shame what society as come into. Mayan ancient living is best practice and organic living.

  9. First of all, I would like to thank you, Mr. Graham for all explanations, and wishing Happy New Year. I will write you in a few weeks after our HOA will have yearly meeting. I need to get some correct information in the meeting and then I will ask your advice.
    God Bless Sir.

    Thank you again.

  10. ! have rented a condo from a couple who live in California (the condo is in Las Vegas) for over 10 years. I pay $875 a month $661 to the owners for rent $214 to the HOF. The owners have been having some kind of problems we are not aware of what type but have told us to stop paying rent for a while til further notice but have told us that paying the HOF is up to us. What do you suggest we live in a large complex that was converted from apartments to condos 10 years ago which we rented from this couple.

    1. Hi Neal:

      I would pay the homeowners dues, but I would be more concerned as to why they don’t want you to pay rent. If they end up not paying the mortgage, you could be out of a place. That would be the bigger issue.


  11. When I moved in my home 6 yes ago, HOA was voluntary. Now, 6 yes later, I’m receiving threatening letters attempting to collect payment for HOA fees. The letters indicate as our community is now 75% full, I now have to pay yearly fees. Can HOA force me to pay even though there’s not a signed contract?

    1. Hi Tina:

      Maybe they had some clause that you signed some more saying you had to pay association dues once the community reached a certain ownership or association participation threshold. If not, you could consider getting an attorney involved. Laws are also different in different states, so it’s hard to give you specific advice.


  12. HOA filed a lien on property because I was late paying a “special” assessment. The total bill was given to me and will be paid in a few days. Our bylaws do not describe the release/satisfaction process. When I inquired the HOA said I’ll pay for their attorney to draft the release document, the HOA will sign it/get notary stamp, but then I’ll have to file it and pay the Recorder fee. What??? I’ve never heard of this—please let me know how HOAs should state this process in their bylaws, plus any other info you can share.

    Our state code describes a satisfaction document must be filed by the originator of a mortgage/lien within 90 days of the satisfaction of mortgage/lien. The requirement is a 3″ margin at the top, a description of the property and reference to the lien/mortgage–

    I think our HOA is in the wrong for not following code, amending bylaws, etc.


    1. Hi Janie Sue:

      They could be violating the law if what you’re describing to me is correct. If you don’t want to pay for it, you could always look at getting an attorney to make them file the paperwork. However, depending on the fees, it could be more trouble than it’s worth.

      Kevin Graham

  13. Hello…

    I am a homeowner in GA. Due to a financial hardship, I fell behind on my HOA dues. The Association referred it to an attorney. The attorney’s letter advised that I had 30 days to respond if I disputed the amount in whole or in part. I responded within the 30 days to the attorney’s office with a cashier’s check with the amount I owed, less the amount of a water bill that should not have been included (that had already been paid); and requested an explanation of a admin fee, a DNA fee for my pet (no evidence received from the DNA company or association that my dog was registered), and an attorney fee of $31. I requested a response within the 30 days. It has been 2 weeks since I sent the letter and have not yet received contact from the attorney. My HOA has also locked my account so now I can not pay my current dues. Should I send the payment directly to the attorney? What should be my next course of action? Can they start foreclosure or lien proceedings without responding to my letter of dispute and although they have my payment?

    1. Hi Tee:

      They aren’t likely to move to foreclosure proceedings too quickly, because the process is expensive and time-consuming. I would contact their attorney to see what they would like your next course of action to be and explain the things you object to. If you have to, at some point if things don’t clear up, it may be worth it to get your own attorney involved.

      Kevin Graham

  14. I have a question. I pay an association fee every month for my condo. I don’t know the exact specifics of my contract with the association – I need to check – but I received two letters in the mail recently. The first is that the association is asking for 3 separate payments of almost $300 for concrete that needs to be fixed, painting that needs to be done, building maintenance, etc. ON TOP of what I already pay a month. The second is that the association wants all of the second floor balcony’s painted (I live on a second floor and have a small metal balcony), and apparently they are telling me that I am responsible for paying for those costs as well. What is the point of paying an association fee if I have to pay extra for these things? Is there anything I can do, or anyone I can talk to about finding out if I am definitely required to pay these costs? I called the association and they were very rude and not helpful at all.

    1. Hi Dave:

      Without knowing the exact terms of the contract, it’s really hard to give you any specific advice. When you dig into the contract, it should specify what services you receive for your monthly fees. It should also specify under what conditions the Association may charge fees over and above what you’re paying on a monthly basis. If you find that you’re not getting services you pay for, you may be able to go after them with a lawsuit for breach of contract, but before you do that, you need to know what’s in the contract.

      Kevin Graham

  15. We have lived in our neighborhood in a rural community for 5 years. It has had no HOA now a few new home buyers are trying to organize one. We are against it we have now amenities such as a pool, or playground its just houses along 3 streets. What do we do to fight against it or refuse to pay for dues when we have nothing to upkeep.

    1. If it’s just a few homeowners, I would imagine you could vote it down on a majority basis. You could always talk to a local attorney. I’m not sure what the laws or if they would be allowed to organize an association against the wishes of the people that have lived there before.

      Kevin Graham

  16. My wife and I went to our annual meeting last night for our condo. We are paying $713.00 a month which raises every year. Due to the lack of payment from other home owners it causes the people who actually do pay fees to increase. I’m not seeing where this money is going the driveway is terrible the lawn looks like crap and much more. Is it legal to charge more to people who do pay to make up for the loss. It seems crazy to me. And how do we hold these other people who neglect to pay accountable.

    1. Hi Taylor:

      I’m going to preface this by saying I’m not a lawyer. However, it doesn’t sound kosher to charge the people that are paying more in order to make up for the people that aren’t paying. A contract is a contract. If you think you’re not getting adequate services for your fees, I suppose you can try going after them for breach of contract, but I don’t know how difficult that would be to prove. In terms of holding other people accountable, that would depend on what your association rules say. Homeowners associations often give themselves the power to place a lien on the properties of the homeowners that don’t pay their dues. I don’t know whether that’s happening in your case.

      Kevin Graham

  17. My HOA is purposely neglecting landscaping around my unit, while other areas (especially near board members’ homes) are beautifully maintained. I pay my HOA dues every month. Since I am not getting the same services as other residents can I withhold my payment until I do?

    1. I can’t recommend that course of action. The homeowners association has the power to fine you and potentially put a lien on your home. Your best option might be to go after them for breach of contract if you can document these things.

      Kevin Graham

      1. Hi Kevin,
        My wife and I purchased a lot in a gated community in NC about 10 years ago. We were planning to build a home there and retire. Our plans have changed and unfortunately we have not been able to sell the lot. We own it out right but the yearly HOA fees and taxes are becoming a burden. We have tried to give it away to a charitable organization but with the required fees, no luck…My question. What repercussions would we be looking at if we walked away from this….Thanks so much.

        1. Hi Greg:

          I can’t emphasize enough that you shouldn’t just walk away. First, you’re looking at a major credit hit. If you do a foreclosure, we wouldn’t be able to help you at all for at least a year and you wouldn’t have very many options until you get to three years. If you do a short sale, you may have a couple more options, but it still isn’t good. You should be able to sell it I would think. We’re in a period of increasing property values.

          Kevin Graham

  18. Like Karen, I pay my dues, $350 per month for six years, while watching the common areas near my unit fall into disrepair. Trees are removed and left bare-never replanted, shrubbery dies and is not replaced, or is replaced with mismatched species, yet the street side units were all recently replanted and re-irrigated to be water wise. When I addressed this with the board they said there is no plan to improve my area, end of discussion. Near my property there are four sections of obvious neglect. As a gardener, I take excellent care of my property to make it beautiful., and to make matters worse, the HOA is constantly coming in my gated yard and looking to find fault with my property. It is so frustrating. What are my options? Can I litigate?

    1. Hi Mari:

      I don’t a lot about legal actions you could take against your homeowners association for failure to keep up the area around your property. Depending on the way your contract is worded, maybe you could get them for breach. Depending on where your property line is, coming inside your gated fence might be considered trespass. That’s a question for the police.


  19. I just got put in on my HOA committee as sec/treasurer. When I asked for information like profit and loss, bank statements,etc nobody had anything to give. I had one person admit they haven’t paid their HOA dues in over2 years but have never received a notice from the management company that we pay our fees to. My questions are, what action can we take against our management company for not sending ANY yearly p&l or other notices? And, how far back can we go for back pay on missing HOA payments?

    1. Hi Lisa:

      I might start by writing the management company and seeing if they respond with documentation and explanations of what’s going on. If they don’t, I’m not a lawyer, but there has to be some sort of legal action you can pursue for breach of contract. As far as how far back you can go for missed payment, I would take a look at the language of the contracts you have with association participants. Have a lawyer look it over. There may be other powers you have to compel payment depending on the nature of your agreements.

      Kevin Graham

  20. I purchased a home last year and have not seen or heard anything from or about my HOA, except gossip from the neighbors. But I’m still paying HOA fees. I should add that my subdivision has no common areas or amenities, we mow our own lawns, do our own upkeep, our own snow removal. Trash, water, sewer, and cable are not included and I pay those separately… so I don’t know what my money is paying for. Any advice?

    1. They have to have meetings. I would find out when the next one is and go. You could also try writing a letter to whoever runs it. They have to be on record somewhere.

    1. Hi David:

      As far as I know, a registered letter has to do with the mail system and I can’t imagine your homeowners association has anything to do with that.

      Kevin Graham

  21. I keep receiving letters in the mail that my landlord has over $1300 in past due HOA fees, will this effect our home although we are the renters

    1. Hi Jackie:

      I would definitely get in contact with your landlord about paying those homeowners association dues. These associations typically have a lot of power to put liens on the house. If it’s still not taken care of at that point, they may be able to eventually take the house away from your landlord and you wouldn’t have a place to live. I would get on them about that. Hope this answers your question.

      Kevin Graham

      1. Our HOA seems to be skimming money off the top and seem to not do too much. I have a couple questions about changing management companies. Any chance you can email me?

        1. Hi Mike:

          I hid your email to protect your privacy. I’m not sure I can help you because I’m not sure you alone have any say in the management company. That usually is voted on by the entire association.

          Kevin Graham

        2. Thats how most of them operate. They collect the money, then just sit back and dictate how you are supposed to live. HOA’s for the most part are just another way for developers to make more money. Rarely do they use the money to “beautify” the subdivision. It’s more or less a money racket under the guise of providing are more visually appealing and safer subdivision. In truth, most people will keep their property in decent order with or without HOA dictation .

  22. During closing time, Is there any policy that HOA Dues letter should be out 3 days before closing date.?? Surprisingly nobody informed us even though we are asking for any pending task related to closing .. Is this quicken loan policy ?

    1. Hi Aditi:

      I’m going to have someone reach out to you regarding our policy and what you were told. I’m sorry you’ve had this experience, but hopefully we can get this turned around for you.

      Kevin Graham

  23. Committing any one of the seven deadly sins results in consequences. HOA’s are a direct result of Gluttony for example. If humans got off their butts once a month formed a group and did their own general upkeep and maintenance like cleaning the pool, trimming trees and hedges, and performed more skilled duties they could say volunteer for in exchange for not needing to perform the more labor intense duties no one would have ever even heard of an hoa. In fact everyone banding together or being assigned a duty team would probably keep the place up better than any HOA could ever do. Those rare things like absestos in the storage lockers could be taken care of as they arrise. For example community donations in exchange for duty free time periods. Of course not being organized as a legal entity like HOA gives no power in court to file a lien on someone if they decide they want to paint the outside of their condo puke green. That person could be shunned by the community though. They could also be assigned the worst labor duties. Not only that the city would get involved as that would devalue everyones property. When property values go down so do property taxes. No property tax or less , no salaries for people who hate working.

  24. I pay my HOA fees, but things like the pool that are included in my fee haven’t been available. The pool had issues last summer and closed; it was not open at all this year. There is no landscaping being done this year at all and I need things repaired on the outside as well. These are included in my HOA fees, but I’m not receiving them because they say they don’t have the funds. What rights do I have as a home owner where I pay monthly HOA fees?

      1. Hi Jane:

        I would imagine your avenues for action against the homeowners association may be spelled out in your contract with the association. There may be steps you have to take to get it rectified by going directly to the association before taking further legal action. Your first step may be to find out what your options are within the contract. I’m going to have one of our Home Loan Experts reach out to you to see if they have any ideas should you need to take your dispute further.

        Kevin Graham

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