To HOA…or not to HOA
by: Wild Bill, aka The Texas Authority
Quick summary for y’all transplants to Texas: If you’re thinking about building a house here, watch out for the Homeowner Associations. They are everywhere, and that’s part of what makes Texas great. Keeps the riff-raff out.
Unless you’re building out in the sticks, your property and home are likely governed by an HOA. And, there’s likely to be a group of neighbors who run that HOA and can be, let us say, exacting in their expectations.
BTW, I have been the President of my HOA in Texas for the past 20 years. I’ve been an accountant and financial advisor and CFO for literally hundreds of Texas businesses and business owners, and I’ve been involved in local, state, and national politics and a provider for my family for over 50 years here in Texas. It’s a great place to live, so lean on me and listen up.
The background of the HOA
Homeowner Associations evolved as America evolved, coming out of World War II.
The concept of a “planned community” in America began to blossom after World War II with the development of Levittown, NY, on Long Island, which was developed primarily for veterans returning from the war as a place to live.
The community was designed with uniform construction standards and a loose-knit set of rules to govern the activities of its residents. The success of this model became popular as residential developments increased over the decades and America’s residential housing market grew by leaps and bounds through the last half of the 20th century.
With the growth of suburbia came the increasing formalization of these residential property arrangements into legal organizations, which have today come to be known as Homeowner Associations.
Today in Texas there exists a body of laws known as the Texas Property Code, which governs the powers and limitations of these entities.
Since homeowners typically subordinate many of their property rights to the Covenants and Restrictions of the underlying Homeowner Association, it is prudent to step lightly into the world of HOAs.
If you want to build a custom home in Texas, the existence of these kinds of restricted residential developments is a major factor to be considered.
Are you comfortable with property restrictions?
The answer to this question will determine whether you choose an HOA community—or not. Residential property owners tend to divide into two groups on this question:
The first group enjoys the unfettered freedom to choose. Their point of view is that their residence is private property, subject only to their own individual tastes and desires. Their independent nature, akin to the Texas mentality, asserts that a person’s home is their castle and therefore not subject to anyone’s rules or restrictions.
Consequently, if they want to paint their front door lime-green and use a busted toilet as a planter on their front porch, they can do it.. If they want to park their riding lawnmower in the front yard and their first family car in the backyard, they can do that. It’s their property!
The fundamental concept of an HOA is probably not for these people.
The second group, perhaps being at a different place in their lives, perceives that the ambiance of their living environment depends to a large extent on the housekeeping proficiencies of their surrounding neighbors.
Committed to the upkeep of their own residence, they welcome the idea of a uniform set of rules in their community–and the ability to enforce them. To them, it’s important that all residences be kept in good repair; it’s important that the overall appearance of the neighborhood be pleasant—even delightful; and, that the usage be restricted to residential only.
HOAs have their advantages in this respect.
Since these two groups obviously don’t mix well in a residential setting, under current Texas law the Property Code sets up the mechanics of a quasi-governmental entity designed to give the second group exactly what they want.
A Homeowner Association can set standards for its entire community and thereby define architectural specifications, behavioral limitations, and penalties for a variety of deviations.
Through the legal instrument of Deed Restrictions, part of the contract in any HOA-governed community, the association can require every property owner to subrogate their rights to the association’s Articles of Covenant thereby ensuring an enforceable standard of uniformity for the whole neighborhood.
So, in searching for the ideal location for your custom-built home, in Texas, you have two clearly defined options: To HOA or not to HOA. The choice is yours, and welcome to Texas.
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