Dealing With HOA’s
In Playa Vista and many other places, HOA’s or Home Owners Associations are a fact of life. They create and enforce rules that add stability to communities and manage common facilities that no one owner would have the manpower to manage. On the other hand, many people find them intrusive, expensive, and overly regulatory. However, without rules, there is chaos. Think of them as a mini government ruling over your property.
Playa Vista is a community with two HOA’s, one for the community at large which manages the community centers, parks, security, and has arrangements with certain utility providers. The second HOA is building-specific and manages the building common area maintenance, aesthetics, and creates and enforces specific rules. The building-specific HOA is where you normally end up with more specific regulations pertaining to what a homeowner can or cannot do with their property. When one purchases a home, they receive sets of rules for both HOA’s through escrow from the property management company. The management company loves charging fees, often several hundred dollars for an electronic copy of documents the owner might already have and to complete questionnaires that your lender requires. It is realistically impossible to review all of these documents as they number hundreds, if not over a thousand pages. Here are some shortcuts to making sure you review what is important to you without requiring you to read the equivalent of a more boring War and Peace in a week.
Reviewing the financials and rules (CC&R’s) is prudent before committing to the purchase. The reserves, which is basically the HOA’s bank account for maintenance and repairs should be at least a few thousand dollars per unit. It may not be fully funded, but should be liquid enough to handle a costly repair or improvement without resulting in a special assessment to homeowners. It sometimes happens anyway, but minimizing those is ideal. Also, while monthly dues will generally increase over time, if they are going up too quickly, that could be a red flag.
The meeting minutes are important to see what people are complaining about and often what they are repairing. If there was a flood in unit #303 and you are buying #203, you may want to inquire about whether water got into the unit directly below and what was done to repair that. Maybe there is an ant problem that cannot be solved and every spring colonies of ants start coming in every orifice of your home. Additionally, if there is an owner who has been warned about his poisonous snake collection occasionally having members escaping from their enclosure, now is a good time to run.
If you want to be sure the HOA does not have rules that directly impact your use of your property such as not being able to smoke, have pets, rent the unit out, or cook outdoors, you should read these. For instance, maybe you are not allowed to rent out your unit or do it for a certain amount of time after purchasing. This is something you should be aware of. Maybe there is a dog breed restriction and your pit bull is not welcome, no matter how sweet she is. If you cannot have an outdoor grill and your keto diet just will not work without one, this is the place to find out. Moving requirements are often included in here or in an additional supplement detailing the permitted moving hours, specific doors and elevators available, thickness of cloth covering for elevators or floors, required insurance for moving company, how long in advance you need to schedule your move, and fees, of course, fees.
HOA’s are not scary, but sometimes people who make it their life’s work to make sure every rule is followed are. It seems like most HOA’s have one on their board. They probably mean well, get things done, and have everyone’s best interests at heart, but may have a hard time treating other homeowners like adults. Just follow the rules, smile and nod when you see them in the hall (less conversation is better), and for heaven’s sake, do not prop the complex door open!