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Life in a homeowners' association can be tense. Are you ready?

Do you live under the rule of a homeowners' association? Many people do. According to the Community Associations Institute, an organization that exists to help HOAs survive and thrive, some 20 percent of the U.S. population lives under some form of this community government.

We suspect that in some parts of North Carolina the percentage might run well over that. Consider the number of high-rise condos we have in some oceanfront communities in the state. That alone makes for a lot of community governments.

One CAI executive describes homeowner associations as the "ultimate form of democracy." That is surely meant to be a positive statement, but as we know in our country, democracy is intended to be conducted within the context of robust openness and debate. And where that environment exists, complicated disputes are bound to arise between individuals and association leaders. Sometimes resolution requires calling in experienced legal counsel.

Those who are experts in community association building and management would likely agree that one of the keys to making the system work is accepting certain basic principles. For example, in an association model you might own your home, but when you sign those corporation papers you are linking your property and its value to others in the community. In other words, your personal castle is just one part of a larger kingdom and the association is the governing body.

If you are considering entering into a homeowner association situation here are some things for minimizing disputes.

  • Know the rules before you buy or rent.
  • Presume there are procedures for most things and follow them.
  • Try to handle neighbor disputes one-to-one before going to the association.
  • Build consensus among neighbors behind changes you desire.
  • Commit to community or board involvement at some point.

As is usually true for any successful human endeavor, good communication between all the parties should be made a priority. Then, if a dispute does arise, don't hesitate to speak with an attorney.

Source: Money.USNews.com, "How to Successfully Live Under a Homeowners Association," accessed Jan. 5, 2016

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Life in a homeowners' association can be tense. Are you ready? | Britton Law, P.A.