What is a Homeowner Association?

Author: Ryan Hodson

What is a Homeowner Association?

The terms "homeowner association" and "HOA" are used in a generic sense although some states use the terms for specific forms of housing. As here, an HOA is comprised of two or more homeowners that belong to a mandatory membership organization for the maintenance of commonly owned real estate and improvements. Size-wise, it can range from a simple duplex up to a huge development with thousands of detached homes, condominiums and townhouses that maintain marinas, golf courses and other extensive recreational facilities.

A "neighborhood association" is a voluntary membership organization that deals with social, political, zoning, crime and does not maintain commonly owned property. Some neighborhood associations, unfortunately, call themselves "homeowner associations" which is confusing the issue. (So stop doing that...we're confused enough already).

Sometimes the HOA legal framework varies even though the association's responsibilities remain essentially the same. For example, property ownership rights are different in a co-op, a condominium and a townhouse. (See our Glossary for definitions.) But in each case, maintenance responsibilities can be very similar. Terminology for these organizations varies not only according to legal structure but also by state and country. 

The functions of HOAs vary according to type, location and custom. 



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