When purchasing a home, one of the biggest questions prospective homeowners ask is, “what is an HOA, and why do we need one?” A homeowners association, or HOA, is a legally incorporated organization of the homeowners in a subdivision, whose mission is to maintain the quality of the community and the value of the homes within it. HOAs are often originally incorporated by the developer of the community to market, manage, and sell the lots in the subdivision. Then when most or all of the lots are sold, ownership of the association is transferred to the homeowners and they become responsible for the management and maintenance of the community. Membership to the association is mandatory, a condition of the purchase of a home in the neighborhood. With this membership, homeowners are required to abide by the community’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), and pay the dues established within them. These dues go towards a variety of things, including the maintenance of the common elements. Most HOAs have some sort of common areas, whether they are simply open space, entrance signs, or recreational facilities such as pools and tennis courts. Collected dues also cover legal, accounting, insurance, and sometimes management fees. In an HOA of single family homes, individual homeowners are responsible for the upkeep of their homes and properties. Who is responsible for which aspects of maintenance can vary in a townhome association, from the HOA performing all exterior maintenance, to the homeowner doing so, to somewhere in the middle. The CC&Rs establish a set of guidelines for maintenance and architectural standards, and also give the board the power to issue violations to any homeowner who is not in compliance. These guidelines can range from not parking on the street to keeping all landscaping neat to setting a standard for the fences in the community, but they were all created for one reason: to ensure the value of the homes stay high and the neighborhood is one people want to live in. The HOA is overseen by a board of directors, volunteer and unpaid homeowners who are elected by their peers to run the community. Being a board member is often a time consuming and thankless job, but most take pride in their community and job well done. It is the board’s responsibility to follow through with everything laid out in the CC&Rs and by-laws. They collect dues, arrange vendor appointments, purchase insurance, and everything in between in order to keep the community running smoothly. Homeowners who do not wish to run for or be part of the board of directors but still want to be involved with their community can join a wide variety of volunteer committees. These committees vary, from a neighborhood watch to architectural and social committees that review architectural requests for compliance with the CC&Rs or plan community events like block parties. Some boards of directors hire a professional management company to aid in the running of the community if they cannot efficiently handle all of the things that need to be done. A property manager will work in tandem with the board, taking on many of the day to day responsibilities such as arranging quotes for maintenance work so the board can simply vote on the vendor they wish to retain the services of for the project instead of having to do the hours of research to find qualified companies. When the board of directors works with the homeowners of the community to create a harmonious living environment, and HOA can be a great place to live.