What Homebuyers in Washington, D.C. Need to Know about HOA

Homebuyers in Washington, D.C. have a wide variety of housing options to choose from, including everything from historic homes to brand new high rise condos. For many, buying a home in Washington, D.C. will include the additional expense of a monthly Home Owners Association, or HOA, fee. Before you decide to make an offer on your dream home, be sure that you understand what an HOA fee is, what it covers, and what the consequences are of not paying the fees.

HOAs are typically associated with condominiums; however, they are becoming more popular in single family residence communities as well. Homebuyers in Washington, D.C., for example, who are looking at a new condo complex will likely be required to join an HOA that is initially established by the builder. Once the builder has sold out all of the units, ownership of the HOA will be transferred to the residents. If you are buying a home in Washington, D.C. though, it too may be part of an HOA that has been established by the residents themselves. It is important to note that when an HOA exists, membership is mandatory for anyone living in the area covered by the HOA. A resident is not able to “opt out” of membership in almost all HOAs.

Because homebuyers in Washington, D.C. who are considering a home purchase that includes an HOA cannot opt out of the HOA, this aspect of the purchase should be given adequate consideration. Not only should you consider what the current HOA fee is, but keep in mind that an HOA fee can also increase from year to year.

Exactly what an HOA fee covers will vary by association; however, some of the common things that homebuyers in Washington, D.C. can expect an HOA fee to cover include:

  • City services such as trash, water and sewer
  • Insurance for the outside of the building and common areas only. You will still need insurance to cover the inside of your home and liability insurance for anything that happens inside the home.
  • Maintenance and repairs of the outside and common areas.
  • Lawncare, landscaping, snow removal of all streets within the complex, sidewalks, and common areas.

In addition, an HOA fee may also cover a number of extra services in higher end properties. Among these services/amenities may be:

  • Pool, whirlpool
  • Community gym or fitness center
  • Business center
  • Parking
  • Concierge service
  • Spa services
  • Playground or children’s activity area

Keep in mind that an HOA is a separate legal entity that has bylaws, covenants and restrictions. Once you become a member, you are not only required by law to pay the fees, but are also bound by those covenants and restrictions. This often means you must consult the HOA rules before making any changes to your home, such as painting the outside or building a fence. Prior to buying a home in Washington, D.C., that requires membership in an HOA, be sure to consult with an attorney to be sure that you understand the covenants and restrictions that you will be bound by once you become a resident.

Finally, homebuyers in Washington D.C. should keep in mind that failing to pay mandatory HOA fees can have serious consequences. Delinquent HOA fees can result in a lien on your property and could even result in a forced Sheriff’s sale. While an HOA offers numerous benefits to members, it is imperative that a member also understand the rules and penalties involved in joining an HOA.



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