Joseph Prudente, 66, of Bayonet, Fla., was jailed after
his adjustable-rate mortgage reset and forced him to make what he thought was a
no-brainer of a decision: pay the extra $600 a month and replant the lawn later.
But that prompted his homeowners
association (HOA) to bring charges against him, ultimately landing him
in the slammer until neighbors banded together and bailed him out with cash for
Never promised a rose garden of the size he wanted, Jeffrey DeMarco, formerly of
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., lost his home when he planted too many bushes and
re-graded the four-acre property in violation of his homeowners
In addition to foreclosure, he got stuck with the association's legal fees:
Homeowners association rule enforcement can be so notorious it was once
lampooned by an episode of the old "X-Files"
television series. The episode's HOA president conjured up a Tibetan monster to
eat association residents who didn't toe the line.
HOA rules can really bite, so how is it that the vast majority of the 60 million
people who live in the nation's 350,000 HOA communities are happy with their
"Conflict and dissension make headlines, and that's what many Americans
read in newspapers and see on television about community associations,"
Thomas M. Skiba, CEO of Community Associations Institute (CAI), said in a
statement. "But when you ask residents themselves, the news is largely
positive. While there are serious issues in some communities, this research
affirms that vast majority of homeowner board members and professional managers
are doing good work for the community associations they serve."
Home Sweet HOA
Only 12 percent of community association residents expressed some level of
discontent with their communities, according to recently
released research commissioned by CAI.
The vast majority, 71 percent, said they are satisfied with HOA life, and 17
percent said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their
Buying a home in an HOA community is a lot like buying a share in a closely
held, publicly traded real estate holding company governed by an ever-changing
regulatory system and managed by volunteers -- your neighbors.
The associations are typically self-governed communities managed by a board of
directors (typically residents who volunteer), with the help of a management
company. Together they oversee finances, maintenance, day-to-day operations, the
by-laws and the rules. Those rules typically address issues such as
architectural guidelines, common area use, pets and parking.
Homeowners associations have seen their share of shoddy construction leading to
nasty building defect litigation as well as poor management and disgruntled
residents, but most residents are quite satisfied with how they operate.
Nearly 90 percent of residents say board members either "absolutely"
or "for the most part" work to serve the communities' best interests.
Only 7 percent expressed displeasure with their boards. An estimated 2 million
homeowner volunteers serve on the boards that govern associations.
The communities range from townhomes and cooperatives to high-rise condominiums
and city-size master-planned associations. Most residents have heard the horror
stories about HOA living but don't choose to participate without careful
The type of housing often is relatively more affordable than a single-family
detached property and, most residents believe, the rules benefit home values.
Zogby's telephone survey for CAI conducted in December found that 70 percent of
HOA residents surveyed said the rules "protect and enhance" property
values. Only 2 percent said the opposite and 27 percent said the rules have no
Other findings include:
percent said they get a "good" or "great" return on
their association assessments or dues. In addition to a mortgage, HOA
residents typically pay a monthly assessment to fund the association's
operations and services, including landscaping, maintenance, garbage pickup,
snow removal, street lighting, pools, club houses, tennis courts,
playgrounds and association-sponsored social functions.
percent say management companies provide value and support to residents and
the association at large.
say the best aspects of HOA living are neighborhood attractiveness (23
percent), less maintenance for individual homeowners (22 percent), community
safety (13 percent) and property values (11 percent).
asked about the worst aspects, 37 percent of residents said there were none.
Fourteen percent mentioned restrictions on exterior improvements, followed
by dealing with neighbors (12 percent) and paying assessments (10 percent).
studies have revealed similar findings.
"Americans have weathered difficult times, and that would normally create
more negative views toward most institutions," Lincoln Hobbs, a member of
CAI's College of Community Association Lawyers and president of CAI's affiliate
Foundation for Community Association Research, said in a statement. "That
hasn't happened in the case of community associations. That says a lot about the
dedication and skill of the vast majority of homeowner volunteers and
professionals who govern and manage these communities."
Survey Affirms Community Association Success
fourth time over a span of 10 years, community association residents
have told pollsters they are satisfied with their homeowners
associations, condominium communities and cooperatives.
national research conducted by Zogby International in December 2009
showed that seven in ten community association residents are satisfied
in their communities, with only 12 percent expressing some level of
discontent and 17 percent neither satisfied nor unsatisfied.
60 million Americans reside in an estimated 305,000 association-governed
communities, from town home communities and cooperatives to high-rise
condominiums and city-size master-planned associations.
findings are strikingly similar to the results of surveys conducted by
Zogby in 2005 and 2007. A Gallup Organization survey in 1999 showed
is positive for the homeowner volunteer leaders who serve on association
boards, with almost 90 percent of residents saying board members
"absolutely" or "for the most part" strive to serve
the best interests of their communities. Only 7 percent expressed
displeasure with their boards. An estimated two million homeowner
volunteers serve on the boards that govern associations.
- 91 percent of residents say they are on friendly
terms with their association board members; just 3 percent indicate
a negative relationship.
- 82 percent say they get a “good” or
“great” return on their association assessments; 16 percent say
- 76 percent say their professional community
managers provide value and support to residents and the association
at large; 18 percent say they don’t.
survey was sponsored by the Foundation for Community Association
Research, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Community
Associations Institute (CAI).
the state of the economy and housing market, these findings are
reassuring," says Foundation President Lincoln Hobbs, Esq., a
member of CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL).
"Americans have weathered difficult times, and that would normally
create more negative views toward most institutions. That hasn’t
happened in the case of community associations. That says a lot about
the dedication and skill of the vast majority of homeowner volunteers
and professionals who govern and manage these communities."
some homeowners chafe when confronted by rules they don't like, 70
percent say their association rules "protect and enhance"
property values, while only 2 percent say the opposite. Twenty-seven
percent believe rules have no impact. Often called Covenants, Conditions
and Restrictions (CC&Rs), rules in community associations typically
address issues such as architectural guidelines, yard upkeep, pets and
the enforcement of association rules can generate discontent and calls
for more stringent regulation of community associations, only 10 percent
of those surveyed want additional government control of
association-governed communities. Almost 90 percent oppose more
best and worst
name the best aspects of living in an association, residents most often
cite neighborhood attractiveness (23 percent), less maintenance for
individual homeowners (22 percent), community safety (13 percent) and
property values (11 percent).
name the worst aspects of their associations, 37 percent say there is
nothing bad. That is followed by restrictions on exterior improvements
(14 percent), dealing with neighbors (12 percent) and paying assessments
(10 percent). Association homeowners pay assessments for services
and amenities provided by the association. Services can include
landscaping, building maintenance, garbage pickup, snow removal and
street lighting. Amenities can include pools, club houses, tennis
courts, playgrounds and association-sponsored social functions.
who cite neighbor-to-neighbor issues, 24 percent say conflict relates to
the appearance of homes. Other leading reasons for strife include
parking (12 percent), personal habits and noise (11 percent,
and dissention make headlines, and that’s what many Americans read in
newspapers and see on television about community associations,” says
Thomas M. Skiba, CAE, chief executive officer of Community Associations
Institute (CAI). “But when you ask residents themselves, the
news is largely positive. While there are serious issues in some
communities, this research affirms that vast majority of homeowner board
members and professional managers are doing good work for the community
associations they serve.”
who are unsatisfied need to “step up and play a constructive and
positive role in their associations,” Skiba adds. “You get out of
your communities what you put into them. There’s no substitute for
active and constructive homeowner involvement and no better way to build
a true sense of community.”
telephone interviews conducted in December 2009, the survey has a margin
of error of +/- 3.8 percent. Zogby International has been tracking
public opinion in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia
by CAI in 1975, the Foundation for Community Association Research is an
independent, nonprofit organization devoted to common-interest community
research, development and scholarship. CAI, with almost 30,000 members
and 58 chapters across the country, provides education, resources and
best practices to the homeowner volunteer leaders and professionals
involved in the governance and management of common-interest
For comparative data on the 2005, 2007 and 2009 national surveys, see
What Americans Say about their Community Associations
times call for desperate measures -- right? I have no other explanation for the
CAI (Community Associations Institute) publishing this pathetic push poll.
Community associations file for bankruptcy and/or can't pay their bills any
longer; owners are losing their homes because neighbors don't pay their dues and
town halls are full of owners complaining about all kinds of problems in their
community associations -- ranging from serious budget deficits to having the
buildings red-tagged by the health department because the water was turned off
due to the association's failure to pay the water bill.
timing for the CAI to use such a push poll to declare that everything is well in
the community association La-La-Land.
German and knowing my history, I am reminded of the desperate attempt of Adolf
Hitler having his Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels explain to the German
people that the defeat of the German army in
was actually a victory!
time the CAI press release didn't even mention how the participants were
selected and how many were actually polled. Most likely they asked the same CAI
members as in the last polls.
can only imagine the public outcry of CAI members if I would publish a poll
asking 1000 pre-selected owners how they feel about the system called
"community association," the service providers and what they really
think about the volunteers called board members.
could easily get results of 97% dissatisfaction, just by asking a few board
members who are members of the CAI providing the 3%.
be very honest, publishing such a push poll is in my opinion more damaging to
the reputation of a trade organization than silence, especially since their
lobbying efforts show that they are unwilling to lobby for reforms that would
actually help associations to deal with the multitude of problems. Every
person in his right mind would doubt the credibility of an organization
publishing such a tainted poll.