Why must I pay HOA assessments for common areas I'm not there to use?

Your obligation to pay HOA fees does not depend on how much, or little, you use the common areas.

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Question

I own a home in a planned development, but I’m moving to take a job in another state. I’m leaving the home vacant until it’s sold. Since my HOA dues are mostly used to maintain the common areas, which I won’t be using anymore, why should I pay the full amount of my dues after I’m gone?

Answer

Unfortunately, not using the common areas in your development does not mean you no longer need to pay for their upkeep.

Planned developments can be great places to live; many offer a variety of amenities such as pools, parks, and clubhouses. These amenities are typically “common areas,” owned jointly by all the development’s homeowners. The costs of maintaining, repairing and replacing these common areas is normally paid through dues and assessments, which are paid by each owner, ordinarily in equal measure, to the development’s homeowners’ association (HOA).

When you bought a home in the development, you agreed to all the terms and conditions of the development’s governing documents, including the one to pay all dues and fees assessed by the HOA. Your obligation to these is not dependent on how much, or little, you use the common areas.

Nor can such amounts ordinarily be adjusted for individual homeowners (the exception being that, in some HOAs, the basic apportionment depends on the square footage of each residence).

If you opt to not to pay up, the dues and assessments you owe will continue to accrue, and you will likely also be responsible for paying late fees and other charges. The HOA might even have the right to put a lien on your home for the delinquent amounts.

That’s going to be bad news if and when you find an interested buyer for your home. You run the risk of complicating or losing the sale when the buyer learns of the outstanding dues. Most purchase agreements require a seller to convey clean title (free of any liens), and most potential buyers will require that all dues and fees be paid in full, and any liens removed, prior to completing the purchase. .

If you have trouble keeping up with payments after you move out, you might wish to earn back some of the home’s costs by renting out the home. You must first check the development’s governing documents, however, to make sure rentals are allowed. You might also wish to talk with your real estate agent, or an experienced real estate attorney before entering into a lease with a tenant, to ensure that the rental doesn’t interfere with your ability to proceed with a sale. If you do rent out the home, and the governing documents of your development allow renters to use the common areas (some might restrict renter’s access to certain amenities), at least you’ll know someone in your home is enjoying those common area amenities that you’re paying for!

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