HOAs

There are more than 100 HOAs in the Green Valley/Sahuarita area.

There's little chance of escaping HOAs in Green Valley and Sahuarita, and for the uninitiated to the various types of organizations, the experience could lead to ruffled feathers on all sides.

Homeowners Associations in the United States have grown by leaps and bounds, and their impact on homeowners has grown with them.

According to iProperty Management – an information and resource site for landlords, tenants and investors – there were 10,000 HOAs in the U.S. in the 1970s. Today, there are more than 347,000 covering about 24 percent of the nation's population.

The number will likely increase; iProperty says 61 percent of new housing is built as part of an HOA. And the impact of HOAs on residents isn't anything to dismiss either.

The group reported all HOAs' revenue amounts to about $95.6 billion, and fees have risen disproportionally with housing prices. From 2005 to 2015, fees have risen 32.4 percent compared to a 15.1 percent increase in home prices for the same period.

The group reported 75 percent of homes in the Western U.S. live under HOA governance and, along with the South, tend to pay higher premiums than the rest of the nation.

In Green Valley and Sahuarita, the number of communities governed by some form of association is even higher.

The Green Valley Sahuarita Association of Realtors' website listed 123 communities in the area with HOAs. There were only 10 without HOAs – six in Sahuarita and four in Green Valley.

The impact HOAs have on both the wallet and daily lives might lead to disputes between residents and leadership.

HOAs and residents

Don Weaver is the president of his Country Club Estates community's POA (Property Owners Association), which he said doesn't own roads and property, leaving them governed by a different state statute than HOAs.

Weaver has had nearly 40 years' worth of experience working with various HOAs here and back east.

Different factors can lead to friction among residents and HOA leadership.

One factor Weaver pointed to was when a new resident hadn't experienced life in an HOA.

"North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where I lived, had a lot of HOAs, it's very common," he said. "But it seems like some of the states, like the Midwest and some of those areas, they don't have as many HOAs. So, a lot of people who move here have never had the experience of living in a homeowners association."

Mark Wade is the president of the Community Association Institute's Southern Arizona chapter. CAI is a resource for residents that provides education, information and networking. He said it's not so much the lack of HOA experience, but the more independent perspective.

"Whether they're from the Midwest or Mountain-West, by Idaho or Wyoming where they don't have those rules, generally speaking, those folks generally don't like being told how to live or what to do and what they'll put in their front driveway or yard," Wade said.

Weaver said new residents should be aware of what to expect when moving into an HOA. One thing he found useful was going through the rules with new residents, he said.

Another factor that can be a source of friction between residents and HOA boards is the approach used when a rules infraction occurred.

"We used to, if there was an infraction, confront the owners," Weaver said. "Now, we send them a friendly letter reminding them of the infraction and that it's their obligation to do whatever the rule says and encourage them to take care of it."

Follow-up letters in a procedure would follow to help fix the situation, he said. The crucial part of the procedure is not trying to correct infractions like a dictator.

Weaver said there are other outside sources to help resolve conflicts and educate HOA board members.

Weaver is part of 13 boards and committees throughout Green Valley and Pima County. Among them is the Green Valley Council, where he is a member and past president.

He said GVC provides mediation support for HOAs, and they also have a training session that covers many of the aspects board officers need to lead their communities. The GVC's next training session is on March 5.

Having knowledgeable leadership goes a long way toward reducing friction, but there are other aspects to watch as well. 

Wade said keeping an HOA running well comes down to communication.

"Sometimes residents are misinformed and form judgments off the misinformation they have and come with those preconceived judgments without getting all the information," he said.

However, with varying opinions in a community, Wade said people need to be willing to accept the vote of the majority when living in a community despite their viewpoints.

"HOAs get a bum rap," he said. "Most people like living in HOAs because of the rules. They like the fact that their neighbor isn't going to paint their house bright green."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732