10 Tips for Dealing With Your Homeowners' Association

Run for a Position on the Board

Knowledge might not always be power, but on an HOA board, the two come hand-in-hand. If you're serving as a director on the board, you will always know its latest proposals and how you as a homeowner will be affected and will need to act in the future. And you'll also be able to do something about them.

A director can vote in the board's decisions and influence others' votes. He or she can also propose changes in order to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. In Boca Raton, Fla., for example, young sisters Samantha and Sophie Chenkin opened a lemonade stand for charity, but the HOA shut it down. The HOA was concerned about their safety, but the security guard felt so bad, he donated a dollar to their cause [source: CCFJ]. If he'd served on the board of directors, theoretically he could have gone to the next board meeting with a proposal to would allow lemonade stands and preserve the safety of residents.

Directors can have bigger impacts. They can stop practices such as using homes as collateral against risky endeavors, which risk leaving many homeowners in tight spots and unable to control the safety of their property ownership. Ann Roth, of the American Homeowners Resource Center, calls the use of homes as collateral "debtquity." Roth is basically warning that the more your home is worth, the more likely your HOA is to put it up as collateral against something the HOA wants. "You might ask for what?" she writes. "The answer you won't want to hear or believe is everything and anything the board decides is in the best interest of the association."

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