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Homeowner Associations: What They Do and How They Work

Jun 25 2021

For millions of people, owning a home means living in a homeowners association (HOA).

Also known as community associations, condo associations, or common-interest developments, HOAs can consist of townhomes, condominiums, or single-family homes.

They can be a bit like private governments. They manage and maintain common areas, shared systems, and even shared roads. All through fees paid by the homeowners. They also make and enforce community rules.

Below you’ll find the basics on:

  • Types of HOAs
  • Membership
  • Community rules
  • Fees
  • How they’re run

The 3 types of HOAs

Depending on the type of HOA, what’s all yours and what you own in common with your neighbors is different.

Planned community

About half HOAs are planned communities, usually of single-family homes. Sometimes townhomes.

  • You exclusively own your building or unit and the land under it
  • The HOA owns common areas, such as grounds, pools, and roads
  • With townhomes, the HOA might own shared walls and roofs


About 40% of HOAs are condo associations, usually apartment buildings.

  • You usually own the space inside your unit and the interior surfaces of the walls, not the land under it
  • You co-own common areas
  • You co-own shared systems, such as the roof and heating/AC
  • The HOA itself might own property too


Around 6% of HOAs are co-ops, structured as corporations. They’re usually a single building.

  • The co-op owns the entire property and all units; owners are like shareholders
  • You have the exclusive right to occupy or “rent” an apartment
  • Common areas might include hallways, the roof, elevators, parking areas, and laundry rooms
  • Common systems usually include heating/AC

Did you know? The number of homeowners associations (HOAs) has skyrocketed in the last 50 years. About 1 in 4 Americans now live in one, and 80% of new homes are built in one.


When you buy an HOA property, membership in the HOA is automatic. You can’t opt out.

That’s because an HOA is, in part, a way to share the responsibilities of homeownership. Including some of the maintenance. That can be nice when it’s time to pay for a new roof! Or if you’d rather go swimming than mow the lawn.

At the same time, you have the extra responsibilities of abiding by the HOA’s rules and keeping up with HOA business.

The best way to make sure your HOA works for you is to get involved. Get to know your neighbors, attend meetings, and vote.

Read More in Keep

For Community Rules, Fees & Finances, and other aspects of HOAs,
read more in Keep!

How HOAs Work

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