Are HOA Fees Negotiable?

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HOA fees are a very real cost for many homeowners and something that you want to thoroughly understand before buying a home in an HOA community.

Just because you once lived in a condominium with an HOA doesn’t mean you should expect the fees and what these pay for to be the same when you move into a single-family home.

While almost all HOA fees pay for common area maintenance and improvements to community facilities, there can be very big differences in what else is included.

HOA Fees Are Usually Non-Negotiable

Generally, you cannot negotiate HOA fees. The fees have a lot of governing legal documents that can include your state’s HOA and/or Condo Act as well as bylaws and/or Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that apply to all homeowners in your specific HOA. If you fail to stay current with your HOA fees, there are drastic actions the HOA committee can — and probably will — take against you.

If you are behind in your fees, the first place to look for possible actions against you is in the HOA bylaws and CC&Rs.

It won’t take long before you receive a formal letter letting you know what actions they have available or have taken. Options can begin by trying to collect through normal collection processes like sending demand letters, assigning an account to a collection agency or having an attorney send collection letters.

In a short amount of time, a lien can often easily be placed against the title to your house. It may then escalate to a civil lawsuit to obtain a personal judgment against the homeowner. The last resort can be initiating a foreclosure.

Generally, it’s in your best interest to stay current on HOA fees.

When You Might Negotiate 

One of the few times you might negotiate the fees is before you buy the home. In a buyer’s market, you can ask the seller to pay the fees for six months or a year. 

If the seller has an HOA fees lien against the title, someone has to pay the back fees along with fines and other costs before the house can be sold. You can insist the seller pay these from their funds at the closing table — that’s the normal solution.

In a severe situation, you might be able to stop HOA fees altogether. This is a possibility when the HOA has become dormant or failed to meet its responsibilities. You could take action to dissolve the HOA. This isn’t a simple task. You’ll probably have to begin by contacting your state’s secretary of state for instructions about how to go about dissolving an HOA for not following the bylaws and CC&Rs. In the simplest scenario, the state can dissolve them administratively.

In the end, if you aren’t happy with the HOA fees being charged, your best action is running for a position on the HOA committee. From there, you have the most direct influence on reducing or eliminating the fees.

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Posted In: EducationPersonal FinanceGeneralReal EstateHOAhomeowners association
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