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Most Houston homeowners live in a master-planned community with a homeowners association. An HOA board is charged with making improvements as well as enforcing developers’ guidelines to protect property values. However, homeowners often have disputes with their neighbors or their HOA, which can sometimes lead to lawsuits.
Can homeowners paint their door a certain color? Who is responsible for a common fence? How can unsightly plants be eliminated from a neighbor’s yard? What happens if a neighbor is a hoarder?
To answer these questions and nip potential lawsuits in the bud, the Community Association Institute of Houston launched a hotline about 5 years ago to help homeowners with questions or concerns they may have about their HOAs. A panel of experts, trained in property management but not law, take turns answering Houstonian’s questions. “The hotline (832-251-1874) averages about 25-30 calls a month,” said Stephanie Ferrante, executive director of CAI Houston, a HOA industry association.
“Our challenge is to keep homeowners educated about their rights and responsibilities living in a HOA,” Ferrante said. “As thousands of new residents move to Houston, HOAs are often confusing, especially if they’re different from where they come from.”
“The most common question posed by homeowners to community associations and property managers is whether a HOA can foreclose on a home,” Ferrante said. The answer? “Generally, if homeowners fail to pay their HOA assessments, the HOA can place a lien on the property,” she said. “If you don’t pay your HOA fees, then the HOA can put a lien on your home and foreclose on it,” Ferrante said. “Everyone needs to pay their fair share so neighbors aren’t unduly burdened covering the cost of common elements everyone is responsible for.”
“If homeowners fall behind on HOA fees or penalties,” she said, “it’s important to talk to the HOA board. Homeowners have the right to a hearing and to negotiate a payment plan.”
“Neighborhoods are best managed and governed by the neighborhood,” Ferrante said. “Some homeowners think of their HOA board as just mean people, but they’re volunteers who do a lot of work for the community that’s often underappreciated.”
Article courtesy of Paul Takahashi with Houston Business Journal