Homeowners Association (HOA) fees can be confusing for many homeowners. This leads to questions like what HOA fees cover, if they are required, and who sets them. To help answer these questions, Chris Hawkes, President of West & Woodall Property Management, explains what you need to know about these fees and how to get the most out of your HOA membership.

What is a Homeowners Association?

Chris Hawkes
Chris Hawkes

A homeowners association (HOA) is usually created in a planned community. Chris explains that it starts when a developer builds the community but then hands it over to the residents. At that point, the homeowners take control. The HOA follows a set of rules called covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). The bylaws summarize these rules, but Chris advises, "If in doubt, check the CC&R."

The HOA is managed by a board of directors elected by the homeowners. The board includes officers like the president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. They meet regularly to discuss budgeting, planning, collections, and hiring vendors. Sometimes, the board hires an HOA management company to help run the community.

Every HOA is different, so it's important to read the CC&R before buying a home in an HOA-governed community.

What Do HOA Fees Cover?

HOA fees, or homeowner association fees, are regular payments made by homeowners to support the community's operations and maintenance. These fees can vary widely depending on the amenities and services provided. Some are paid monthly, while others are paid annually. Generally, the more amenities a community has, like pools, clubhouses, tennis courts, or walking trails, the higher the fees.

Common Expenses Covered by HOA Fees

These fees cover various expenses for the upkeep and management of the community. These expenses can differ depending on whether the community consists of single-family homes, townhomes, or condos. Here are some common costs that HOA fees typically cover.

Landscaping and lawn care

HOA fees often cover the cost of maintaining the community's landscaping, including mowing, trimming, and planting flowers or trees.

Common area maintenance

HOA fees contribute to the maintenance and repair of common areas such as sidewalks, playgrounds, parks, or picnic areas.


HOA fees contribute to the maintenance and repair of common areas like sidewalks, playgrounds, parks, and picnic areas.


HOA fees may provide access to amenities like swimming pools, fitness centers, tennis courts, and clubhouses. These fees cover the maintenance, repair, and operational costs of these facilities.

Exterior home maintenance for townhome and condo communities

In most townhome and condo communities, the HOA is responsible for things like roofs, siding, and gutter cleaning. "Everything," Chris says, "except the windows and doors."

Private streets

If roads in the community were not built to North Carolina DOT standards, their maintenance is the responsibility of the HOA. This includes repairing potholes, repaving, and snow and ice removal. If the roads were built to NCDOT standards, they are public and not the responsibility of the HOA.


In some cases, these fees cover utilities such as water, sewer, or electricity for common areas like street lighting.

Reserve fund

A portion of the fees is typically allocated to a reserve fund, serving as a financial safeguard for future repairs, replacements, or unexpected expenses. A larger reserve fund reduces the chance of needing a special assessment for major, nonroutine maintenance. Special assessments can be one-time charges or ongoing fees, depending on the expense.

Administrative costs

HOA fees contribute to administrative expenses like accounting, legal fees, and professional management services.

Community events

Some HOAs organize community events or social activities, and the fees may help fund these events.

How Fee Amounts Are Determined

The board of directors, composed of homeowners elected by others in the community, determines fee amounts. According to Chris, they assess the community's financial needs based on factors like ongoing maintenance, upcoming projects, reserve fund requirements, and administrative expenses. The board calculates an appropriate fee structure considering the amenities and services provided by the HOA.

Before implementing fee changes, the board typically communicates with homeowners and may hold meetings to discuss the proposed adjustments. Homeowners have the chance to provide input and ask questions. Ultimately, the board makes the final decision, considering the community's best interests and financial stability.

Chris emphasizes the importance of homeowner involvement in the HOA. "You need people to join the board, and when changes are proposed, you need to vote on them and read the mail about proposed changes. That's your chance to have a say. Otherwise, changes pass because your representative approves them."

Why It's Important to Pay HOA Fees

It's crucial for homeowners to understand that paying fees is a legal obligation when buying a home in a planned community governed by an HOA. The fees and homeowners' rights and responsibilities are disclosed during the home's closing process. Chris emphasizes that while people have a choice in buying a home in an HOA, once they do, they agree to abide by its rules and pay HOA fees. That's why reading the CC&R before buying is essential.

According to Chris, failure to make HOA payments can result in various consequences:

  1. Late fees: HOAs often impose late fees for overdue payments, which can accumulate over time.
  2. Lien placement: In severe cases of non-payment, the HOA may place a lien on the homeowner's property, giving them the right to collect unpaid fees by selling the property.
  3. Legal action: Continued non-payment may lead the HOA to take legal action, resulting in additional fees, court costs, and potential foreclosure.

The Bottom Line on What HOA Fees Cover

HOA fees are vital for supporting the operations, maintenance, and amenities of communities governed by homeowners associations. They cover various expenses, including landscaping, common area maintenance, insurance, amenities, and administrative costs. The HOA board of directors determines fee amounts based on the community's needs and financial stability. It's crucial for homeowners to fulfill their responsibility of paying HOA dues to avoid consequences like late fees, liens, or legal action. By contributing to these fees, homeowners actively participate in maintaining and enhancing the quality of their community while safeguarding their property values.

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