A Homeowners Association is an organization of homeowners of a particular subdivision, condominium or planned unit development. The purpose of an HOA is to provide a common basis for preserving, maintaining and enhancing their homes and property. Those who purchase property within an HOA’s jurisdiction automatically become members, and are required to pay dues known as HOA fees. HOAs are governed by bylaws, which establish how the association will be run, and by a declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions.Some associations are very easy going with what members can do with their properties, and others are very restrictive. It’s best to know what the restrictions are before you agree to purchase a house in that community, or else you can be in for a headache. Better Business Bureau Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties offer up the following information regarding your HOA, and maintaining a positive relationship with them. Who is the HOATypically, property owners within the community are elected to the board of directors and run the HOA. They may use a property management service to handle the day-to-day business of the association on behalf of the association, advise the board members, and handle things like payment. Getting to know your board of directors is essential because it will allow you as a homeowner to feel more involved in the decision-making process. Review the rulesThe Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions are a set of rules established by a developer or the HOA. If you are planning to purchase a home within an HOA community it’s best to review the CC&Rs before going through with the purchase. The CC&Rs can put restrictions on parking, paint colors, amount of pets, etc. If you are a current homeowner in an HOA community, you should reference the CC&Rs anytime you are unsure of the rules, or if the HOA is not acting in good faith. Pay the feesHomeowners that live within an HOA community will be required to pay a monthly fee to the HOA. This fee will cover things like landscaping, a community pool, repairs, and even the salaries of HOA employees. Sometimes, an HOA will charge a one-time fee if their reserve funds can’t cover the cost of a repair or improvement. If you do not pay your fee on time, you may be in trouble.HOA’s have the power to place a lien on a homeowners property if they become delinquent in paying the monthly fee/and or special assessments. A lien can hinder the homeowner’s ability to sell or refinance their home, and the HOA can even foreclose on that property if they wish to satisfy the debt. If the HOA does foreclose on your home, you may still be responsible to pay off your mortgage even if you are no longer living in the home. In California, there are some provisions on when an HOA can foreclose on a home. According to California Civil Code §1367.4, an HOA may not foreclose on the property unless the delinquent assessments equal or exceed $1,800, or the assessments secured by the lien are more than 12 months delinquent. Attend meetingsBy attending meetings, you are able to stay on top of the latest news, and will be informed of any upcoming changes or issues that your neighborhood may be facing. Also, it’s best to be vocal. Don’t show up to meetings to just show up, show up to be heard. If you have an idea, grievances, or kudos to give, speak up. An HOA functions best with its members respectfully voice their opinions. If you want to make a bigger impact, run for the board, chair or committee. Get prior approval Many HOA’s are restrictive with what you can do to the outside of your home. It’s best to run any changes by the board first for approval. HOA’s usually have a simple approval process, but if you choose to go ahead with the changes without getting prior approval you may incur hefty fees. Have access to records California homeowners living in an HOA community may inspect many of the records of the HOA. If they would like access to the records, they may have to pay the direct costs to produce the records for inspection. If a homeowner requests the redaction of information that is private or could lead to identity theft, they must pay for those costs as well. The records that homeowners have a right to access in California are: Annual budget reportApproved vendor or contractor proposalsCheck registersDocuments for prospective purchasersEnhanced association recordExecuted ContractsGoverning documentsInterim financial statementsMeeting agenda and minutesMembership listsPolicy changesReserves summaryState and federal tax returns Get outside help when necessaryIf you have an issue with your HOA or property management company and you’ve exhausted all other resources and can’t come to an agreement, you may need to seek outside guidance. Outside guidance can include contacting the BBB or a lawyer, depending on the issue. Following these guidelines will help you maintain a positive relationship with your HOA. For more tips, visit bbb.org ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties which was founded in 1950 and serves Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Mono, Tulare, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.