DC Metro Homeowners  Associations
About Homeowners Associations in Washington DC & NVA
Home owners associations are not-for-profit corporations created by developers of residential housing communities prior to a sales offering for the purpose of controlling the appearance, management and budget of the community.
The association not only provides services and manages the community, it also has the authority to enforce regulations, levy assessments and impose fines for infractions by property owners. HOA boards may also create subcommittees for such things as neighborhood watch, landscaping and architectural review, even social committees.
Members pay dues and assessments and must follow the rules set forth in the association’s Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The CC&Rs of the association are recorded at the time the property is subdivided and legally “run with the land” so that each subsequent owner of a property is bound to them as long as he or she is a property owner in the community. It’s important to review the CC&Rs of an home owners association prior to purchase in order to ensure that you can live with the rules, restrictions and penalties of the association.

Homeowners Association Finances

Property owners in a community governed by a home owners associations pay a share of common expenses. A home owners association operating fund is devoted to the operating expenses of the association and its reserve fund exists to cover common area assets maintenance, repair and replacement costs. If the reserve fund is well-funded, it will minimize the chance of special assessments being levied against property owners should a large common area repair or replacement, among other costs, become necessary. It’s important to review the budget, operating and reserve funds prior to purchasing a home controlled by a home owners association in order to ensure that the association is healthy.

Home Owners Associations for New Construction

The association has a board comprised of appointees and elected officers. At the inception of the home owners association, the project developer appoints members of the board and is in full control. When homeowners gradually join the board, the developer maintains a majority voting share by retaining the most seats through appointees. Once a pre-determined percentage of sales is reached, usually 70% to 75%, the homeowners association turns over to a board of owners, while the developer retains the majority vote until the project’s final sale. At this stage, the developer transfers full ownership of the association to the homeowners and no longer has legal or financial responsibility to the corporation.

Tips For Buyers on Home Owners Associations

  • It’s your responsibility to review resale documents and new construction public offering packages. Make sure you understand how the association operates and review the responsibilities of homeowners;
  • It is typically required by an association’s restrictive covenants (part of the deed restrictions) that you become a member of the HOA;
  • Review the governing documents for the HOA within the rescission period specified in your contract. Pay strict attention to the CC&R’s (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions). They can contain provisions such as architectural restrictions, recreational vehicle parking restrictions, boat and water sport craft storage limitations, restrictions for commercial vehicles (even cars or vans with advertising displayed), pet restrictions, lawn maintenance requirements, and more;
  • HOA operating expenses are typically collected evenly among owners. These assessments can be due on an annual, semi-annual, quarterly or monthly basis. If you don’t pay your assessments as required, you will likely incur late fees and possibly a lien by the association, even foreclosure in some cases. Review the documents carefully to learn exactly when and how the assessments are to be paid, and what remedies the association has if they’re not paid as agreed;
  • Carefully review the financial health of the association. Ask for copies of all budgets, pending and/or recent assessments, reserves, legal actions (pending or recent), and any other financial documents such as annual income and expense statement and balance sheets. Sometimes HOAs are required to furnish these and as a potential homebuyer you have the right to request them for review. If you don’t understand these documents, ask an expert! It’s better to pay a small fee for clarification than to make an expensive mistake;
  • The association’s Reserve Fund is an account for future capital improvements. Uses for this money can be private street maintenance, parking maintenance, repairs, replacement or maintenance for roofs and common building exteriors, clubhouses, pools, tennis courts, fitness centers, lakes, ponds, marinas, etc.;
  • Special Assessments occur when associations don’t maintain on a regular basis, or when a major common element requires major repair or replacement and the Reserve Fund won’t cover it. Special Assessments get passed on to homeowners in addition to regular assessments. They can occur once, or be recurring. All owners are required to pay their share of a special assessment;
  • Almost all associations incorporate architectural restrictions in their rules. Homeowners often have to submit written requests for approval of changes. These can include additions to the dwelling, remodeling, addition or changes to fences, outbuildings, garages, pools, playground equipment, and even extend to exterior finishes, windows and doors as well as their hardware, paint colors and mailboxes;
  • Who manages the association? Associations can be managed by a developer, a contracted management company, or be self-managed;
  • How are meetings conducted? Are homeowners welcome? Do homeowners and the board have good interaction, or are they at odds?
  • Do homeowners have a voice? Talk to homeowners;
  • How well does the board respond to homeowner issues and maintenance/repair requests? Are they professional in their interaction? Talk to homeowners.


Serving the neighborhoods of Northwest DC, Northeast DC, Southeast DC and Southwest DC including Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Crestwood, Capitol Hill, H Street, Kalorama, Mount Pleasant, Columbia Heights, Georgetown, West End, Burleith, Foggy Bottom, Shaw, LeDroit Park, Bloomingdale, U Street, Penn Quarter, Mt. Vernon Triangle, Palisades, Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights, Barnaby Woods, American University Park, Observatory Circle, Forest Hills, Woodley Park, FoxHall, 14th Street Corridor, U Street Corridor, Meridian Hill, Hill East, Barracks Row, Eastern Market and portions of Northern Virginia including Arlington, Alexandria, McLean, Great Falls, Fairfax, Vienna and Falls Church.
Information is believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed. Subject to change without notice. Realtors are not CPAs or attorneys and are not permitted to give tax or legal advice or interpretations. Refer to a tax or legal professional for all related matters. Any information provided on this site pertaining to such issues is not intended as tax or legal advice and is provided solely for the purpose of illustration. Resources cited are believed to be accurate but are not guaranteed and are subject to change without notice. The Isaacs Team LLC, it successors and/or assignees/affiliates accept no responsibility or liability for the content herein.