By Bruce Cathcart

This week we are going to take a look at Home Owners Associations (HOAs) and what you need to know about them. I couldn’t find one simple definition of HOAs that I liked so I created the following: Home owners associations are formal legal entities (usually corporations) that are created by developers to maintain the common areas and interests in planned unit developments of single family homes, townhomes, condominiums and cooperative apartments, with the authority to enforce deed restrictions known as Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that are usually established by the developer when the development is built, to ensure that they are adhered to in order to maintain the integrity, quality, and value of the properties involved in the development.

According to the Community Association Institute, in 1970 there were approximately 10,000 communities with HOAs in which approximately 2.1 million people lived. In 2012 there were 323,600 communities with HOAs in which approximately 63.4 million lived. It is the fastest growing form of housing in the United States today.

Here in the Coachella Valley you cannot go more than a mile in most residential areas without running into a gated community of some sort. And each of these communities has its own little government known as an HOA (or in some cases called a community association) that is responsible for collecting dues from its property owners and managing the common areas and interests. These common areas and interests can include landscape maintenance, guards and security gates, pools and spas, tennis courts, lighting, roadways (maintenance and reserves), clubhouse and fitness centers, exterior home maintenance, insurance (fire, earthquake, flood, and liability), and just about anything else you can think of that is shared by all of the property owners in a specific development.


You should know that participation in the HOA is not an option! If you purchase a property where there is an HOA you are obligated to join the HOA and must agree to abide by the rules and regulations and you must pay the monthly fees. If you do not abide by the rules and regulations you can be cited and fined by the HOA until you comply. If you do not pay your monthly dues your HOA can take private legal action under civil law against you and many HOAs even have the ability to foreclose on your property!

So who runs these HOAs? You do! Or more accurately you vote on a board of directors comprised of yourself and/or other property owners who act as the governing board to make decisions on behalf of the HOA. The board usually hires a professional management company that manages the majority of the day to day activities of the HOA. The HOA has formal rules and bylaws that the board must adhere to and oftentimes major decisions and changes in HOA policy are put to a vote of all of the property owners before they are made.

Is living in a community with an HOA right for you? Some HOAs are much stricter and provide many more services than others. Rules can sometimes appear petty like no parking on the street or driveway after 10 PM or what color you can or cannot paint your front door, or even whether or not you can fly an American Flag on days other than holidays! So if you are a bit of a maverick and don’t like being told what to do I’m guessing you won’t like living in an HOA. But for those who appreciate the rules for the integrity and peace of mind that they provide, as well as the carefree lifestyle afforded by someone else providing security, amenities and maintenance, a gated community with a well-run HOA may be just the right place to own a home.

This week’s real estate tip: If you are planning on buying a home that is subject to an HOA you should make sure that you are familiar with the CC&Rs and all of the rules and regulations of that community BEFORE you close escrow. You should also obtain a copy of the HOA’s financial statement to make sure that the HOA is in good shape with ample reserves, no special assessments, and is not the subject of any litigation. Your real estate agent can help you with all of these items.

Bruce Cathcart is the Broker/Co-Owner of La Quinta Palms Realty, “Your Friendly Professionals” and can be reached by email at or visit his website at