Also known as an HOA, a Homeowners Association is the organization formed to run and maintain a subdivision or planned unit development such as a condo, town home, gated community or neighborhood subdivision. In San Francisco, condos are the most common forms of HOAs though there are a few single family home neighborhoods that have annual fees. Think St Francis Woods… Members of the HOA (i.e. the owners) are obligated to pay fees to their HOA. The fee and what it covers varies from association to association. The homeowners association is governed by the CCRs (Covenants, Codes and Restrictions).
While the oversight of HOA’s in most states is minimal, California has a body of HOA laws that mostly serve to protect homeowners. As Realtors, we cannot offer legal advice about HOA’s, but we can offer guidelines about the types of questions you should be asking when considering a condo purchase.
The Benefits of Homeowners Associations in San FranciscoBeing part of a collective like an HOA does come with certain benefits as a homeowner. Benefits can include:
- Common area maintenance and property management services
- Garbage and Water service (and sometimes, other utilities)
- Community activities and involvement
- Recreational amenities such as pools, gyms and other common areas
- Building insurance coverage
- Adherence to community standards for both the building’s appearance and occupant’s behavior (think pet policy or short term rental restrictions)
Shopping for a condo? Here are good questions to ask about the HOA.The SFhotlist Team at Keller Williams San Francisco works with many San Francisco condo buyers. Over the years, we’ve come up with a list of frequently asked questions about the condo association. Here are some of the most common questions Realtors are asked about HOA’s in San Francisco.
- Am I able to rent out my unit?
- What is the pet policy?
Good news for pet lovers: California law prohibits condo deed restrictions against keeping pets. The Davis-Stirling Act states that no condo association can prohibit a unit owner from keeping at least one pet, subject to the HOA rules. (Civ. Code §4715) “Pet” is defined as any domesticated dog, cat, bird, aquatic animal kept in an aquarium, or other animal agreed on by the HOA and the unit owner. However, the HOA may limit the number, size and breed of pet the owner may keep.
Service animals must always be permitted. The Americans with Disabilities Act allows people with disabilities to bring their service animals wherever the public is allowed.
- Why are the HOA dues so high?
In general, HOA dues cover the costs to maintain and manage the building. This can include property insurance, water, garbage, landscaping, management and maintaining a “reserve account” put aside for bigger ticket maintenance items like exterior painting, installing a new roof, etc.
If the operating budget is too low with no reserves set aside, the costs for unexpected needs will be placed suddenly on the HOA members in the form of a special assessment, which can be quite the financial shock if members aren’t prepared.
Some associations choose not to keep reserves so that the monthly fee is low. If you buy into a building like this, you get to keep more of your money each month but be prepared to share the costs of maintenance as it happens over time.
- What are the restrictions on home remodeling and alterations?
As skilled real estate consultants with the SFhotlist Team and Keller Williams San Francisco, we’ll guide you through the HOA disclosures and help you discover what’s most important to you in a condo.
If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, we are here to help! Reach out to schedule a free consultation.