Frequently Asked Questions about HOAs
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1 What is a Community Association?
2 What are CC&R’s?
3 What are Bylaws?
4 What are Design Guidelines?
5 What is a Design Review Request(DRR)?
6 When must my plans be reviewed?
7 How do I submit plans for review?
8 Why do I have to pay assessments?
9 How can I pay assessments?
10 How can I have assessments automatically paid?
11 What is the cost and how does a homeowner get signed up for ACH service?
12 When will the automatic withdraw take place?
13 How do I change the bank account ACH is deducted from?
14 How do I cancel my ACH service?
15 When are late fees charged?
16 What are violations?
17 What is a turnover meeting?
18 When and how does it take place?
19 What is a common element or common area?
20 What is a limited common element?
21 What is a set back?
22 What is a building envelope?
1 What is a Community Association? top
Many community developments are required to form a non-profit corporation to care for the developments common areas and regulate the community’s specific operations. This corporation is known as a community association or homeowners association (HOA) and functions like a micro-municipality. For developments of single-family homes, an HOA’s main concern may be only the common areas while for patio homes, townhomes, condominiums, and lofts, association concerns may be such things as roofing, snow removal and other facilities. In addition to maintaining the common areas, associations are responsible for managing the association’s finances and, at the direction of the Board, enforcing the Governing Documents. The extent of an association’s powers and involvement are dependent on three factors:
- The type of development
- The powers given it in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R’s)
- The degree of involvement mandated by the association members
Responsibilities vary by community but examples of duties performed by the HOA would be:
- Collection of assessments from its members (i.e. homeowners) for implementation of the budget
- Manage the finances of the HOA for day-to-day operations and the long-term preservation of the association
- Notification of CC&R violations and application of penalties, if necessary
- Maintenance of common areas, buildings and facilities, as prescribed by the CC&R’s
- Attend to community and homeowner issues, and inform homeowners of issues facing the community
- Processing for approval individual home exterior modifications to ensure compliance with the CC&Rs and the design guidelines of the community.
2 What are CC&R’s? top
The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R’s) is one of the governing documents of your association. This document gives an association its power and authority and is recorded against each lot. The lot owner is legally bound by the terms and conditions it contains. Among other things, the CC&R’s provide for architectural control of exterior changes to your home and lot, such as landscaping, lighting, fencing, out buildings, painting and drainage. For condominiums, townhomes and lofts, the CC&R’s may address more than just the exterior. Since you are legally bound by the CC&R’s, it is extremely important that you read and understand these documents.
3 What are Bylaws? top
In addition to the CC&R’s, a community may also have Bylaws that govern it. While CC&R’s bestow the authority of the association, the Bylaws detail how that authority is to be administered. This document concerns more specific guidelines regarding the day-to-day operation and management of an association, including the duties of the individual board officers, the frequency of meetings and notification for them, how assessments must be calculated and so on.
4 What are Design Guidelines? top
Many of the exterior changes are governed by the Design or Architectural Guidelines, which are legal additions to the CC&R’s. In order to assure the continued quality and protection of property values in your community, a Design Review Committee will evaluate requests for exterior changes for compliance with the governing documents.
5 What is a Design Review Request (DRR)? top
A DRR is a request to the Association to makes exterior changes to your property. The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R’s) describe certain restrictions on improvements to the exterior of your home and property. The CC&R’s also provide for certain refinements to the Covenants that are found in the Design Guidelines. Your communities’ documents page has the current revision of your CC&R’s. To ensure the Covenants and Design Guidelines are followed, your Board selects a Design Review Committee (DRC) that reviews and approves change requests. Prior to turnover from the developer to the HOA, the developer reviews the requests. Approval pertains to such things as landscaping, retaining or decorative walls, decks, fences, sheds, spas, and satellite dish locations. To put it simply: any external change to your home must have an approved DRR. To do this, you are required to submit a DRR to the Committee for review. To speed up your submission, review the CC&R’s and Design Guidelines before making your request. Visit Forms to get a DRR and instructions on its completion.
6 When must my plans be reviewed? top
Prior to starting any exterior changes to your home or lot, the DRC must review and approve your plan. It is extremely important to submit your plan and receive approval before any work begins because if your changes are not compliant with the design guidelines, you may be required to make costly alterations or completely remove your changes at your own expense.
7 How do I submit plans for review? top
Visit your community page and select Governing Documents from the menu on the right. Directions on form completion and submissions are detailed there.
8 Why do I have to pay assessments? top
Your assessments pay for current operations and services to common areas within the development such as snow removal, utilities and landscaping. In addition, funds are accumulated for long-range infrastructure maintenance. Your CC&R’s provide for the regular development and maintenance of a budget to ensure funds are available for these requirements. Yearly, the long-range reserve plan should be reviewed to make sure reserves are growing to meet future eventualities.
9 How can I pay assessments? top
You can pay by check or you can have your dues paid automatically by your bank. If paying by check be sure to include a coupon from your assessment coupon book to avoid a delay in the payment. Make checks out to “community name” followed by HOA and send to the address below:
- “Your Community Name”
- PO Box 29141
- Phoenix, AZ 85038-9141
You may pay in advance quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Use your coupons to ensure pre-payments are correctly credited to your account.
10 How can I have assessments automatically paid? top
You may also pay dues automatically using Electronic Funds Transfer. Also called “ACH” for “Automatic Cash Handling”, this option sets up an automatic withdrawal of funds based on monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual cycles.
Any HOA homeowner who is currently paid up on their assessments and does not have any balances due to the association can set up ACH service.
11 What is the cost and how does a homeowner sign up for ACH service? top
ACH is free. To set up the service on an account, you just needs to complete the Authorization Agreement found on the Forms page. MAIL the completed form to SCM along with a voided check from the account you wish payments to be made from. Legally an original form and voided check are required. Digital forms either emailed, faxed or copied in any way are not acceptable. If SCM receives the application by the 6th of the month, ACH will begin the next billing cycle. ACH is the easiest, most convenient way to pay your dues. If you have any questions about this services or need assistance in setting up payments, please contact SCM.
12 When will the automatic withdraw take place? top
ACH is processed between the 1st and 5th of the month scheduled for payment.
13 How do I change the bank account ACH is deducted from? top
Complete a new application, attach a voided check from your new account and send in. Please note that changes must be received by the 25th of the month to become effective for the next month billing cycle. Applications received after the 25th will be billed on the current account, with the new account taking effect the next month.
14 How do I cancel my ACH service? top
Cancellation must be in writing and received by SCM at least 10 days prior to ACH due date.
15 When are late fees charged? top
Late fees on past due assessments accrue according to the specifications in an association’s governing documents. They may be a flat charge, an interest percentage, or both. Prompt payment of your assessment obligation is important. It is also important to understand that most governing documents require payment even in the event of a dispute. Contact SCM with any issues you have but do not stop paying assessments.
Most CC&R’s also require for accounts to go into a default status after a period of non-payment. Default can lead to lien placement and/or foreclosure. The homeowner is responsible for any fees associated with collections and lien placement.
16 What are violations? top
Violations are essentially non-compliance with the governing documents. They likely include architectural violations such as making an external change without submitting a DRR. They could involve rules such as leaving trash can out, parking vehicles in unapproved places, or leaving holiday decorations up too long. The CC&R’s will detail what violations are and if there is any penalty.
SCM will send you a friendly reminder about any violations noted when observing your neighborhood and give instructions for when it must be corrected. If the violation continues, a penalty process may begin, so it’s important to address the situation promptly. No one like receiving these types of letters but a notice of the violation is required under most governing documents.
17 What is a turnover meeting? top
Turnover is the transition of control of the association from the developer (Declarant) to the homeowners. Homeowner board members are elected at various percentage of lot sales. Typically a board member is added at 50% sold, another at 75% and a third at 85%. A complete board – composed of homeowners – is elected and the association records are turned over to the community.
18 When and how does it take place? top
A community becomes eligible for turnover when a certain percentage, usually 85%, of the lots in the community are sold to owners. The percentage is specified in the governing documents. Once the percentage is achieved, notices of a turnover meeting are sent to the homeowners to encourage attendance and participation in the meeting.
During the turnover meeting, the purpose of the meeting is explained, as is the role of the association. The financial status of the association is reported to the members and questions are answered by the Declarant and/or the managing agent, if applicable. The remaining board seats are elected.
Turnover transitions control of the association from the Declarant to the homeowners. It does NOT resolve the Declarant’s responsibilities in either completing the development as approved in the Planned Unit Development or any existing warrantee responsibilities.
19 What is a common element or common area? top
Common elements are those portions of the property not owned individually by the homeowners but in which an indivisible interest is held by all homeowners. All homeowners have the right to use common elements and are responsible for their maintenance. This generally includes items such as green belts, documentation, pathways and parks. Patio homes may have part or all of their lots designated as common elements. With condos and townhomes, the building from the unit walls out typically are common elements. Check the CC&R’s for the specific definition of common elements in your development.
20 What is a limited common element? top
A limited common element has all the attributes of a common element but with limitations on its use. Examples of limited common elements would be; A courtyard adjacent to a condominium for a particular group of homeowners or an assigned parking space in a common parking lot. In these examples the association owns and maintains the element yet only a specific group of homeowners (or a single homeowner) have the right to use it.
21 What is a set back? top
A properties initial development must be approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction, typically a city makes the approval. What specific development must be done on the property, where the lots and common areas are, where the roads and services are located are detailed in a Planned Unit Development or PUD. The PUD is very specific and is legally binding on the developer and lot owners when purchased.
One aspect of the PUD may be lot specific set-back requirements. A set-back is a margin around the border of the property that the house cannot encroach into. Set-backs give the neighborhood spacing between houses. Check the links area for the specific set-back on your lot, it may be different than your neighbors. Understand your lot set-back when considering improvements on your property. You may not legally be able to build in or extend a roof line into a set-back. The city may have restrictions on out buildings in a set-back. Your CC&R’s, including the design guidelines, may also have limitations on improvements in into the lot set-back.
22 What is a building envelope? top
The building envelope is the home footprint defined by the foundation and any additional building overhangs. In a patio home community, many home lots typically sit in the middle of a large common area space. Your lot may extend to and connect to the street and adjacent lots or it could be defined as the building envelope. Look at a plat map to define your specific lot, it can vary widely in patio home communities. Individual homeowners are not allowed to have improvements extend into the common areas.
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