Purpose of HOAs
Property ownership often combines elements of individual and common ownership interests. For example, a property owner may individually own his or her living quarters, but also own a common interest in amenities that are considered too expensive for a single homeowner to purchase individually (such as a pool, gym, or trash collection service). Properties with such elements usually take the form of apartments, condominiums, planned developments, or stock cooperatives (together known as “common interest developments” or “CIDs”). Whenever a CID is built, California law requires the developer to organize a homeowner association (or “HOA), which can take several different names, including “community association”. Initially, the developer relies on the HOA to market the development to prospective buyers. Once each unit in the development is sold, management of the HOA is passed to a board of directors elected by the homeowners. At that point, the primary purpose of the HOA shifts to maintenance of common amenities and enforcement of community standards.
HOAs generally charge each homeowner monthly or annual dues to cover the cost of their services. HOAs may also charge special assessments to cover large, abnormal expenses, such as the cost of upgrades or improvements. The amount charged in dues and assessments is established by the HOA’s board of directors, within the limits set by the HOA’s governing documents and California Civil Code section 1366. Section 1366 provides that HOA dues may not be increased by more than 20 percent of the amount set in the previous year, and the total amount of any special assessments charged in a given year generally may not exceed 5 percent of the HOA’s budgeted expenses.