Joining an HOA? There Will Be Hell to Pay: All of the downright dreadful things you need know if you’re buying a property governed by a homeowners association

By Kris Frieswick

There is a reason why many people who buy a condo vow never to do it again. That reason is the Homeowners Association.

HOAs were created, as are most hellish things, with the best of intentions. When people own contiguous properties and share common spaces, they have the ability to negatively affect each others’ property value and quality of life. It is a good idea, in theory, to have agreed-upon rules of conduct and a method to pay for shared expenses. The HOA board makes sure everyone plays along. But like any humans given power over others, HOA boards inevitably get drunk on the stuff, so HOA rules and fees proliferate like perfectly fertilized weeds.

In fairness, being an HOA board member is one of the most thankless roles that has ever existed. Your job is to enforce rules that range from reasonable to foolish with equal gusto but with almost no authority or enforcement powers except for a DEFCON 1 property lien. No one says thank you, and, if you do the job well, everyone hates you.

I own a property governed by an HOA, the board members of which I consider friends. (This isn’t normal.) Still, I will never again own a property governed by an HOA. I would rather just live in a van down by the river, where at least no one tells me what color I can paint my van, what type of tires I need to have, or what size holiday décor I am allowed to hang from the rearview mirror.

If you are considering buying a home governed by an HOA board, here is a breakdown of each type, as well as where they dwell in the various circles of hell.

Co-op boards/ Ninth circle Small HOA condo boards/ Eighth circle Large HOA condo boards/ Seventh circle Single-family HOA boards/ Fourth circle